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Guangdong’s Air And Water Dirtier Despite Factory Closures

He Huifeng – SCMP – Updated on Sep 04, 2008

Air and water contamination in Guangdong worsened in the first half of the year despite the closure of thousands of polluting factories – many of them Hong Kong-owned – in the Pearl River Delta.

A total of 53.4 per cent of the province’s rainfall in the first six months was categorised as acid rain, a 7.1 percentage point rise over the same time last year, a report released yesterday by the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau showed.

Two-thirds of the 21 cities in the province were affected by acid rain. Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan , Zhuhai , Foshan , Maoming , Zhaoqing , Huizhou and Zhongshan were among the worst-hit.

Provincial meteorologists said the average pH level of rain – the measure of its acidity – was 4.81 in Guangdong during the period. Rain with a pH level below 5.6 is regarded as acidic.

Acid rain increases the acidity of soil and water, lowers crop output and kills animals in rivers and lakes.

Guangdong authorities have pledged to cut emissions of sulfur dioxide, the main cause of acid rain, by 4 per cent and chemical oxygen demand, a measure of water pollution, by 3.5 per cent this year.

The bureau’s report said sulfur dioxide emissions in 13 cities had dropped, but did not say by how much.

Guangdong recorded an 8 per cent drop in acid rain last year but the bureau did not explain why levels had risen this year.

Chinese Academy of Sciences researcher Kuang Yaoqiu said acid rain in the Pearl River Delta was caused by high levels of vehicle fumes and sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants and polluting factories driven by rapid economic development.

“We saw a big reduction in acid rain frequency last year because Guangdong authorities shut down all the province’s coal mines at the end of 2005 for safety inspections,” he said.

“During 2006 and 2007, Guangdong also ordered its industrial sector to use imported coal, which led to lower sulfur dioxide emissions and helped to lower pollution.

“I think many factors, like reopened underground coal mines, and power plants, have led to a pick up in acid rain in Guangdong this year.”

Professor Kuang said he was not optimistic that Guangdong would see reductions in acid rain or improvements in air quality even though authorities had moved many high-polluting factories from the Pearl River Delta.

“Many of those factories just moved to neighbouring places, like west and north Guangdong, Hunan and Jiangxi province . Those local governments do not have environmental protection rules or pollution-treatment regulations as strict as the delta,” he said.

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