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Ask also what you can do for the environment

Updated: 2016-11-01 07:58
(China Daily)

Ask also what you can do for the environment

A child puts on a mask as she and her friend visit the Forbidden City on a heavily polluted day in Beijing Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. [Photo/IC]

Never have people in China shown so much concern over the environment and its implications to their health as nowadays. As the country becomes a well-off society, more and more people are asking what increasing material prosperity will mean if there is little clean water to drink or clear air to breathe.

Their worries seem not so far-fetched, given the rising environmental challenges China faces. According to a 2015 report by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the quality of underground water was relatively poor in 45.4 percent of the 4,895 monitored spots and very poor in 16.1 percent of these spots. The ministry's data in 2014 also suggested about 1.1 percent of the surveyed arable land in the country is severely contaminated with poisonous chemicals such as cadmium and mercury. While for many who live in the north, smog, sadly, is becoming part of daily life.

Compounding these problems is the public's lack of general awareness about what role they can play in addressing these problems, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Chinese Society for Environmental Sciences, which were released on Monday.

The survey, which interviewed about 3,100 people in Beijing as well as Central China's Hubei province and Northwest China's Gansu province, tested how much basic knowledge people had of environmental protection and pollution, such as how to dispose of garbage and protect oneself from smog, as well as what steps to take to report incidents of pollution. More than 90 percent of the interviewees failed the test.

Such a situation is worrisome. Not only because people's lack of knowledge increases the burden on the health system, but because government efforts to improve the environment may be compromised or even derailed when people lack the necessary awareness. Many garbage incinerator projects in cities, for instance, have been canceled due to strong opposition by residents.

After more than three decades of double-digit economic growth at the cost of the environment, the government has come to realize the importance of the environmental protection. Investment in the sector over the past five years has reached 3.4 trillion yuan ($501 billion), or 3.5 percent of the country's GDP, up from 1 percent in 1999.

A beautiful China is part of the Chinese dream. But the government alone cannot accomplish this. It is the responsibility of each of us to play our part, by sorting the trash, cutting the use of plastic bags, or even dialing the government hotline to report a polluting enterprise.

We have only one planet, and we all share the responsibility to look after it.

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