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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September, 2004, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
China facing environment 'crisis'
By James Whittington
BBC, Beijing

China's rapidly growing cities are among the world's most polluted
A senior Chinese official has told the BBC the country's environmental problems have reached crisis levels.

Pan Yue, deputy head of the State Environmental Protection Administration, said the problems now threatened economic performance.

He said China's industrial development was unsustainable, because its resources could not cope.

Environmental problems like pollution, acid rain and contaminated rivers have only now become a key policy issue.

Mr Pan said that China could no longer afford to follow the West's resources-hungry model of development and it should encourage its citizens to avoid adopting the developed world's consumer habits.

We need new laws and regulations otherwise we're just talking slogans
Pan Yue
He said previous attempts to create a cleaner environment had not been carried out properly and there would now be a raft of new laws and regulations aimed at promoting sustainable development.

"Now the question is how we adjust the model of development. This is a key issue which is being discussed at the highest levels of government. We've been talking about sustainable development for 12 years, but it's not been carried out properly.

"Now we've learnt the lesson. We need new laws and regulations, otherwise we're just talking slogans. It's important to make Chinese people not blatantly imitate Western consumer habits so as not to repeat the mistakes by the industrial development of the west over the past 300 years," he said.

This is not to say that Beijing is to abandon its economic ambitions.

The pace of industrial development over the past 20 years has been unprecedented in human history and Mr Pan acknowledged that there would be political and social problems if China's economic growth rate was not sustained.

But he said that more emphasis should be placed on renewable energy, replacing its coal-fired power stations with greener technology, and penalising factories that cause pollution.

The BBC's Louisa Lim
"China's air, land and water are all plagued by environmental problems"

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15 Jun 04  |  Asia-Pacific
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