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Lowest Marks Over Environment

Stephen Chen, SCMP – Updated on Jan 16, 2009

Mainlanders gave the government the lowest marks yet for environmental protection last year, despite unprecedented public spending on such efforts in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics

Nearly 80 per cent of residents polled felt the environment was “extremely” or “fairly” bad last year, up nearly 10 percentage points from 2007. More than half of the respondents were also dissatisfied with government attempts to solve environmental problems.

The survey was conducted by the China Environmental Culture Promotion Association, a non-profit organisation funded by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. It canvassed nearly 10,000 residents in 31 major cities. Residents in rural areas, where the most polluting factories are located, were excluded.

The interviewees’ environmental awareness had increased, contributing to the surge of negative feedback, the report said.

The report also said the reputations of state-owned enterprises were severely damaged, and blamed the decline on the tainted-milk scandal and other incidents. The enterprises’ approval ratings dropped by more than one-third compared with 2007.

More than half of the people surveyed said the root of the milk scandal lay not in any company’s management but the lack of government supervision.

In contrast, the popularity of foreign firms on the mainland rose sharply last year. Nearly 80 per cent of residents said they trusted overseas companies more on environmental ethics, a practice often neglected by mainland enterprises, the report said.

Residents showed little awareness of Beijing’s costly environmental campaign initiated in recent years. Fewer than 10 per cent of them knew about plans to cut energy consumption by 20 per cent in five years.

And almost all respondents answered incorrectly when asked about who was responsible for the environmental problems in their neighbourhood – the correct answer was the city government.

Top environmental concerns were garbage, noise and pets. Mainland cities produced 130 million  tonnes of waste last year, but only half of it was properly collected and disposed of. Some cities just dumped the waste in suburban areas, causing sanitary and pollution issues.

There is one area where the government seems to be winning points: the ban on plastic bags. In a non-government study funded by the Heinrich Boll Foundation, also released yesterday, more than half of the consumers polled in Beijing’s four downtown districts were using environmental friendly carry bags or using their own plastic bags to shop.

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