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  • The China Environment Yearbook (2005): Crisis and Breakthrough of China's Environment
  • Herman F. Huang (bio)
Congjie Liang and Dongping Yang, editors. The China Environment Yearbook (2005): Crisis and Breakthrough of China's Environment. Leiden: Brill, 2007. lix, 437 pp. Hardcover $200, ISBN 978-90-04-15636-4.

China's extraordinary economic growth and rapid urbanization have come at an enormous environmental cost. Many Chinese do not have access to clean air and water. The total cost of air and water pollution in China is estimated to be 5.8 percent of its gross domestic product.1 In response to these conditions, the Chinese government established a target of reducing air and water pollution by 10 percent in its eleventh five-year plan (2006-2010). Environmental activists and concerned citizens are also clamoring for action.

The China Environment Yearbook (2005): Crisis and Breakthrough of China's Environment examines the state of China's environment and the efforts of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to effect change. It is the translation of Huanjing Lüpi Shu 2005 Nian: Zhongguo de Huanjing Weiju yu Tuwei (环境绿皮 书 2005 年: 中国的环境危局与突围), edited by Liang Congjie (辆从诫) and Yang Dongping (杨东平) and published in Beijing by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2006. Liang and Yang founded the Friends of Nature, China's first official environmental nongovernmental organization. Altogether, the book has thirty-nine contributors, most of whom are NGO workers, while others are journalists, researchers, and university faculty members.

This yearbook consists of an introduction and twenty-eight chapters divided into three parts: "Focal Issues," "Special Reports," and "Case Studies." The introduction is an overview of current environmental concerns and new environmental protection initiatives. Part 1 contains eight chapters, mostly pertaining to several key events and government actions. For instance, China's State Environmental Protection Administration suspended dozens of projects that had started before the legally required Environmental Impact Assessments had been approved (chapters 1 and 4). The eighth chapter presents two competing perspectives of what the relationship between humans and nature should be. Part 1 also covers a petrochemical spill, the status of environmental rights protection, controversial hydropower projects, avian influenza, and deforestation (Chapters 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7, respectively).

The ten chapters in part 2 discuss major environmental concerns and ongoing activities that address them. Seventy percent of China's water bodies are polluted, only 46 percent of wastewater is treated, and over 300 million people in rural areas do not have reliable access to safe drinking water (chapter 10). Although a survey revealed that 71 percent of the general public thought that their environmental conditions had improved between 2000 and 2005, national pollution [End Page 227] control goals for 2001-2005 were not met (chapter 11). During the same period, however, more than one hundred grassroots NGOs, like Friends of Nature, sought to educate the public and influence government decision making (chapters 17 and 18). Other topics in part 2 include the development of an environmentally friendly economy, sustainable energy, successful ecological recovery, soil erosion and desertification, the environmental consequences of rapid urbanization and potential solutions, and biodiversity protection (chapters 9 and 12-16).

Part 3 is composed of ten chapters illuminating recent NGO activities and public interest in environmental matters. Six NGOs initiated a campaign that resulted in legislation requiring that air conditioning in public buildings be set no lower than 26°C (chapter 19). The Green Hanjiang River NGO encouraged stakeholders in Henan and Hubei provinces to cooperate in addressing trans-boundary river pollution (chapter 22). Beijing's Baiwang Jiayuan neighborhood mobilized in response to the construction of high-voltage electric transmission lines and towers (chapter 23). In Inner Mongolia, several herdsmen who were affected by the Dongwu Banner Paper Mill went to court and won (chapter 24). In response to efforts by an international NGO, Greenpeace, the multinational company Kraft Foods agreed to stop using genetically modified components in its products sold in China (chapter 27).

Among the other topics covered in part 3 are local bans on the use of electric vehicles and automobiles with small engine displacements (chapter 20) and restrictions on the harvest of cordycep mushrooms (Cordyceps sinensis) for traditional Chinese medicine (chapter 21). Also discussed are the...


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