China is paying an increasing price for pollution brought about by economic development, says a report by the country's environmental protection academy.
The cost of environmental and ecological damage to the country soared to almost 1.4 trillion yuan ($222 billion) in 2009, an increase of 9.2 percent on the previous year. China spent 3.8 percent of that year's GDP to clean up the environment, according to the statistics in the recently released China Green National Accounting Study Report 2009.
"The damage to the environment not only results in health problems, but in financial loss as well," said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a non-government organization protection agency based in the capital.
"It's a vicious circle if we continue to strive for economic prosperity at the cost of huge energy consumption and environmental pollution, and it's time we wake up and curb the trend," Ma said.
The average cost of China's resources output is $320 to $350 per ton, far below that of developed economies, which is between $2,500 to $3,500 per ton, and it is still decreasing, according to the report conducted by the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, an institution of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
"This means we are consuming about 10 times more energy than the developed economies for the same amount," said Ma.
This situation is especially true in the central and western regions of China, where the economy is relatively underdeveloped, says the report.
Also, many local governments, such as those in North China's Hebei province, that seek a booming economy, are attracting investment home and abroad, at the cost of the environment.
"The pollution produced by companies, especially those in the steel, smelting, cement and chemical industries, is far beyond those cities' capacity to control," said Ma. "It's irresponsible. We enjoy the temporary prosperity and leave the burden to our next generation."
However, compared with the less economically developed areas, cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, and regions in the Pearl River Delta are in better position.
Despite the government making efforts in the past few years to find a balanced solution, it still has a long and hard task ahead, says the report.
"I'm glad to see the government is taking action," said Ma. "But to solve the problem, we should double the effort."
As economic globalization expands, most governments in China make economic development a priority and are becoming hostage to the heavy-pollution industries.
Ma is calling for the government to toughen laws and regulations on environmental protection and impose charges as soon as possible.
"The resources are too cheap here," said Ma.
The report also showed that carbon dioxide emissions in China had more than doubled from 3.5 billion tons in 2000 to 7.2 billion tons in 2009, making China the biggest producer of carbon dioxide worldwide.
It is the third time the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning has issued the report, also known as the Green GDP National Accounting Study, since 2006.
"It's a good thing the public is being informed of how much money the government has allocated to tackle environmental pollution while developing its economy," said Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.
Du said the capital is considering releasing the local Green GDP in future.