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Can Zibo really turn green?

An east China city's hopes for clear water and blue skies have been shattered by companies that continually flout environmental regulations. Lu

Dongting reports from Shandong province.

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Chang Benfeng, Wang Bingwen and Zhou Jingxin live in a residential compound in the town of Zhongbu, near the city of Zibo in east China's Shandong province. They showed me the buildings where they live and the pollution they have endured in recent years. Chang placed a magnet on the ground, and demonstrated how it instantly attracted a layer of iron particles, of which a new layer falls from the sky every day. Over the northern and eastern walls of the compound, trucks laden with iron ore and coal rumbled back and forth, stirring up a "black snow" of dust and iron particles.

The compound consists of 29 buildings constructed by Shengli Oilfield for workers at Zibo's iron and steel operation. It was designed to be an orderly, close-knit and green community. and the 900 residents used to describe it as something of a utopia. But all that was to change in 2004, when Jinling Iron set up shop next door.

Song Xichen, deputy general manager of Shengli Iron and Steel, explained that since 2003 the price of iron ore has rocketed from 240 yuan (US$32) a tonne to about 1,240 yuan (US$164) today. This led Jinling Iron to ignore environmental concerns and set up Iron Eagle: a huge iron smelting operation next door to the residential compound. Dust from the stockyard and the trucks, soot from the chimneys and non-stop noise from loaders and bulldozers began to torment the residents.

Soon they had had enough. They complained to the authorities about this "environmental calamity" and addressed the firm directly on a number of occasions, but there was little improvement. They also tried to sue the company, but both the local and city courts found reasons not to hear the case.

On November 24, 2005, Zibo’s environment authorities informed Iron Eagle that they were in breach of the Environmental Protection Law and the Environmental Impact Assessment Law, and announced that the firm was responsible for "relatively prominent environmental problems." It was fined for environmental damage, and swift changes were demanded. But a year and a half later, there still have been no real improvements.

Zibo is currently turning itself into an "ecological city." Its action plan, dubbed "clear water and blue skies," is in its final year and is crucial to its goal of becoming a "national model environmental city." It would be reasonable, then, to expect the city to clean up its air and carry out environmental impact assessments in its development and planning. But public complaints say that chimneys continue to belch fumes all over the city. I spent an afternoon investigating, and found that in the fields surrounding the city there were unlicensed smelters every few kilometres, the majority of which were built in the last two years. And more are still being built, polluting the air and taking up space on fertile fields.

I obtained a copy of a Zibo government statement about the firms blamed for the city missing its environmental targets, published on April 19this year. It included a list of companies that failed to carry out environmental protection measures, including Iron Eagle and some 20 others. The notice demanded they meet environmental protection standards by the end of May. Another 263 firms, many either in Zibo’s ceramics industry or the iron and steel sector, were also required to reduce dust, soot and sulphur dioxide emissions by October 31.

But the month of May has already passed, and have those firms cleaned up their act? According to Zibo’s environmental authorities, they have not. The head of Zibo Environmental Bureau’s complaints department, Wang Deshi, made this clear: “We didn’t approve any of these firms when they started up, nor would we have been able to. With the state so concerned with environmental protection at the moment, I doubt they would have been approved at provincial or national level either.”

Standing in front of the notice board at the Zibo Environmental Bureau, local residents still want to know why these firms can keep on polluting, despite failing in their environmental responsibilities. When will Zibo’s dreams of clear water and blue skies come true?

Homepage photo by  © Rob Welham 

Dongting Lu is a Beijing-based reporter.

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匿名 | Anonymous



No way out

I think that at least now there is no possibility to have clear blue sky and clean water, because business people are colluding tightly with officials, and there is a strong connection between the people in power and those with wealth.

Thus it is difficult for environmental efforts to yield substantial results

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



王韬 Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Iron & Steel production expands in China

In 2006, China turned from a net iron and steel importer into net exporter, by exporting 34.73 million tons of raw steel.

Mostly encouraged by the higher price growth in international market, China increases its iron and steel output.

Production of nonferrous metals and cement in China are also on a big rise.

All these are the key industries which China requires to increase their energy efficiency. But the introduction of measures such as lifting the drawback of exports by high-energy-consuming industries hasn't yet yielded effects.

Zibo is just a typical example among many other cities in China to show this situation.

Huge economic gains are the major impetus for investors to pour huge money into building iron and steel companies.

It is worth doing investigation to find out how the permission is given to build these iron and steel companies, and which kind of roles the local governments have played in this regard.

It is ironic that local governments announce that they are aiming to become green examples for other cities to following, meanwhile they are supporting the construction of high-energy-consuming sectors like iron and steel companies. Wang Tao from Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



Facing the uncanny with no fears

In China, those giant petrol chemical industries are located in city, and desperately to construct themselves into tourism city. For instance, certain provincial capital in North-East region; there is also certain tourism city desperately to involve in petrol chemical industry, for example the city in South-East region, where the famous Chinese author Lu Xun had taught. The reputation of Zibo oscillates in between steel industry and tourism city, the winner is usually the steel industry which has been successfully developed. As quoted from Qian Zhongshu in one of his publication, those in the surrounded city wish to dash out, whereas those are staying outside wish to dash in. It’s sounds appropriate by using such description for these cities.

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匿名 | Anonymous



Forward, Media

In this regime of restricted voices, it is Chinadialogue who's been showing us new developments all the time. Go, Dongting!Keep up the good momentum!

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


" 没有任何环保手续的前提下,还有什么理由继续污染下去?" 难道有环评,就有理由继续污染?严重同意评论2,地方政企勾结,不顾百姓死活,也是腐败的一种,因为地方政府的根本出发点不是造福当地百姓,而是追求自己的政绩=GDP。

The local government colludes with business is a cause of disaster

“why can these firms keep on polluting despite failing in their environmental responsibilities?” Has environmental responsibilities, has the reason to continue to pollute? I seriously agree with comments 2: the local government, colluding with business, does not attend to the common people----this also is the corruption. However the primary aim of local government is not to benefit local residents, but to pursue their achievements.