China boosts spending in cleaning up soil and water as it shifts gears in fight against pollution

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaking during the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2019.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaking during the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2019. PHOTO: AFP
China also plans to raise spending on air pollution, up 25 per cent to 25 billion yuan.
China also plans to raise spending on air pollution, up 25 per cent to 25 billion yuan.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - China is shifting gears in its fight against pollution, dramatically increasing spending to clean up its soil and waters.

The prevention and control of water and soil pollution will be strengthened, said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as he delivered the work report at the opening of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's annual meeting of parliament on Tuesday (March 5).

Figures from the government Budget released at the start of the legislative meetings on Tuesday show that spending in water and soil pollution will increase by 45.3 and 42.9 per cent, reaching 30 billion yuan (S$6 billion) and 5 billion yuan respectively.

Spending on air pollution on the other hand will go up 25 per cent to 25 billion yuan.

China is the world's top polluter, where some 40 years of breakneck growth have caused large quantities of pollutants to be emitted, befouling its air, water and soil.

In previous years, efforts to tackle pollution have focused mainly on airborne pollutants, an effort government official frequently refer to as the "battle for blue skies".

In 2014, Mr Li had declared war on pollution during the opening of that year's National People's Congress (NPC) meetings.

 
 
 

Since then, the country has clamped down on polluters, closing and fining factories in a bid to clean up the environment.

Last year, the government released a new three-year action plan to fight smog, which targets to improve air quality by 2020.

Indicators for the key PM2.5 pollutant, airborne particulates small enough to enter a person's bloodstream, have dropped continuously.

But soil and water pollution remain stubborn problems.

Mr Li said businesses must fulfill their responsibility for protecting the environment.

"Promoting green development is down to every last one of us, its success hinges on action and commitment. We must all work together to create a beautiful and liveable environment for our people," he said.

Mr Li was speaking to almost 3,000 delegates from the National People's Congress, as the legislative body kicked off its annual meetings at the Great Hall of the People.

Combating pollution is one of three critical battles Chinese President Xi Jinping has identified. The other two are fighting financial risks and poverty.

Mr Xi has pledged to build a "moderately prosperous society" by 2020, and controlling pollution is a critical benchmark to achieving this goal.