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Feature photo by ksbuehler. Photo above by TimS

1. Water pollution

According to the Worldwatch Institute, the water is not safe to drink in many areas of China.

Industrialization has polluted many lakes and streams, resulting in chemical pollution and increased algae blooms. Algae blooms also contribute to fish die off by chocking off the oxygen supply that aquatic life needs to survive.

2. Exacerbated dust storms

China is experiencing an increase in dust storms. Dust storms can spread as far as North America from China and these storms can become deadly when they pick up airborne toxins from factories. Lester R. Brown of the Earth Policy Institute cites over-plowing and overgrazing as contributing causes of the desertification process.

3. Coastline swamped by red tides

Untreated sewage is being dumped into surrounding estuaries, creating a surplus of red phytoplankton. Red tides are becoming a common ocurrence in China, killing off marine life and adversely affecting the surrounding coastal communities. Toxins from this algal growth make seafood unsafe to eat.

4. Thermal insulation rare in Chinese buildings

Because of poor (or no) usage of insulation, Chinese buildings require twice as much energy to heat or cool as those in similar climates in the US or Europe. The World Bank states that 95% of these buildings do not meet meet China’s own codes for energy efficiency.

According to Wang Tiehong, chief engineer of The Ministry of Construction, 30% of China’s total energy consumption is used for building infrastructure, such as new residential or shopping areas.

Photo by pdvos

5. All new buildings require China to build new power plants.

Chinese infrastructure is increasing at an astronomical rate of growth. China added 66 gigawatts of electricity to its power grid in 2005, according to the The New York Times. That’s about as much power as Great Britain generates in an entire year.

6. Heavy industry plants do not operate efficiently or control pollution as adequately as factories in other parts of the world.

On average Chinese steelmakers use one-fifth more energy per ton than the estimated international average. The World Bank says that cement manufacturers need 45% more power and ethylene producers need 70% more power than producers elsewhere.

Another study done by the World Bank in conjunction with the State Environmental Policy Act, or SEPA, the national environmental Agency, concluded that 350,000 to 400,000 premature deaths are a direct result of outdoor air pollution.

7. Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River is triggering landslides.

With the degradation of the Yangtze River, entire ecosystems may are altered or destroyed. The Times Online reports that geologists have found banks are weakening as a result of water seeping out of the reservoir and the huge pressure changes that occurs during drawdowns of the dam.

A Chinese official noted that the reservoir shore had collapsed in 91 places, affecting a total area of 22 miles. Algal blooms are accumulating downstream from the Yangtze.

Photo by hleung

8. China’s emissions growth is 2-4 times greater than expected

The International Energy Agency predicted that China’s carbon emissions would not reach those of the United States until 2020.

The agency now states that China overtook the US in emissions growth in 2007. China is the world’s second-largest consumer of oil after the US, and uses more coal than the US, the European Union, and Japan combined.

9. Extinction of Yangtze river dolphin is confirmed.

After an extensive six week survey of the mammal’s habitat, scientists now believe that the 20 million year old Yangtze river dolphin is now extinct. The BBC News stated that the team of scientists thinks that unregulated fishing was the main reason for its extinction.

10. US firms are driving pollution in China.

According to Jane Spencer of the Wall Street Journal, US firms are helping to drive the current environmental degradation in China. By demanding lower prices on products, manufacturers are forced to reduce environmental safeguards in order to compete internationally.

As an example, she states that prices on fabrics and clothing imported from China to the US have fallen 25% since 1995.

What You Can Do/ Community Connection

Support local and international organizations promoting awareness of and remedies for the current industrial environmental degradation of China. Matador is affiliated with The Green Camel Bell, a non-profit located in Lanzhou, China, which focuses its efforts on environmental conservation, activism, youth development, and education. On an international level, Oxfam International works to fight poverty and injustice.

Sustainability Environment


About The Author

Ellen Wilson

Ellen Wilson is a freelance writer/photographer based in Michigan. She has taught English and biology in the US and the UK, and is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to educate and inspire others through her writing and photography.

  • Hal

    I experienced #2 firsthand when I lived in Seoul. Each spring, the "yellow dust" would make its way across the Yellow Sea and descend on the peninsula. On some occasions it was quite eerie, and everyone always donned surgical masks on those days. Thanks for the informative article!

  • Carlos

    You were doing OK, until you fell for the "Blame America" gambit, at the end. You don't think Chinese greed, has anything to do, with it? Just because, a company is listed on the NYSE, and Wall Street is located in the USA, doesn't mean it's an American firm. Capitalism flys no flag. They don't sell their products, only to Americans. Americans would love to have the jobs back, but the mindless, buy low, sell high Borg of capitalism, will have none of it.

  • Tom

    It's sickening really how many people care so much more about money than anything else. how much is enough?

  • zeeol

    On top of that, China is screwing with the natural ecology with their huge dams and by converting fishing towns into massive cities. They should have planned things a lot better!

  • Chris

    Enough is enough when we don't have trees and fresh water anymore. I thought we all wanted to wear masks everyday. Really though, the West needs to help China and India tremendously. We should be helping them into more energy efficient factories through most sophisticated technology. It seems that they are using some primitive (but probably cheap) tech for all the pollution they produce.

  • vered

    I visited China during the nineties and was warned against drinking water. I knew the air was heavily polluted but wasn't aware of the rest.

  • hyrcan

    Hope more people find this and get a better idea of the problems. @Carlos: She never said China's greed didn't also contribute. But if american business weren't demanding unrealistically low cost on items they put insane markups on the need to ditch all environmental and worker safeguards wouldn't be needed. To get a better picture of how our greed causes environmental and social hardships other places I'd suggest checking out do a good job of explaining it simply.

  • Melissa Donovan

    Great post, albeit quite disturbing. I dugg it. We need to get the word out there! At first I was on the side of the people who said boycott the Olympics, but now I'm wondering if by China hosting the Olympics, more attention might be brought to their shoddy environmental practices.

  • Sheila_Ber1

    Must be very disturbing, unhealthy,all in the name of greed and competition. Soon there will remain nothing to be greedy for.

  • bill

    i am doing a resarch project on chinas enviromental issues and i was wondering if it is possible to get numbers of people that have died from some pollution of some sort!! thanks!

  • Pebbles

    Are the Yangtze dolphins the same as the finless porpoises that live in the Yangtze? If so, I saw them in 2002 when I spent some time living and working on a cruise ship on the Yangtze. It was amazing to see them gliding through the water in their natural habitat and I felt really lucky since they are rarely sighted. I am very sad to hear that they are now extinct.

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    instead of sitting and comeenting we must look for solutions. any ancient civilization

    is bound to face this problem. help is needed from all around.

    • Newone

      are you going to save it? if yes…..,gooooooooood!!!!!

  • chary

    I love the info. I just want to know if there a solution to thermal insulation being rare in chinese building. I writing a resreach paper on environmental issues in china and u.s.,and i am using this info.
    thank you for reading

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  • Trace

    Im doing a project on China!!! I thought it was beautiful but not after this articale China might ruin Asia and people well come over here and ruin the U.S.A

    This makes me proud to be in AMERICA!!!!!! At least were not ruining the U.S.A

  • aliya

    woww thats very gross….i just read the first sentence and got bored haha but veryy informational thanks

  • Pokeball401

    no not the dolpinhs T.T!!!!!!

  • Eleni

    Nature in itself and earth is precious and should be preserved!!!

  • Complainer

    this was supost to be about environmental issues

  • Newone

    shouldn’t be reading if it had not been school project. still goooooooood ……..

    • why do you care

       im also doing a project on china

  • HS82

    This is a bigger issue than the environment. This is about international greed. The greed permeates from the corporations who crave fatter wallets, to the consumer who wants cheaper products, to the government and bankers for messing the world up so much that the bottom dollar is all we look for. Then we have the Chinese, oh those lovely people who sacrifice and compromise their health, families, and environment so that they can provide cheap goods and live at a below minimum standard of living.  but lets not forget that the chinese manufacturers are ripping off virtually everyone who does business with them by producing cheap fakes of real products. These cheap fakes lead to their workforce being completely ripped off, their environment being ripped off, the international companies being ripped off, the crap quality of product being paid for so when it breaks the customer is being ripped off. The problem here is that greed is the driving force for virtually EVERYONE.  but it’s kind of like making a deal with the devil. No one wins in the long run… But where to from here?

    • Edorrian12


  • Austinsjobs

    almost everyone here is doing a school project and i am too

    • New

      i like likeing

  • Gerard Badana

    this article is so useful for me.

  • Kimberly Mason

    Thank you so much, Ms. Wilson. This article will add much substance to my Enviromental Health discussion board at Kaplan University this evening! Great information.

  • Maria Gilyn Perez Monte

    it helps me a lot..

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