Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Air Pollution in China and Factors Constraining China's Economic Growth

Air Pollution Could Become China's Biggest Health Problem

Unless major efforts are made by the Chinese government to monitor and report smog levels, air pollution will become the biggest health threat in China. Currently the Chinese government is reluctant to monitor and report on the country's poor air quality and related health consequences, and thus most Chinese citizens are unaware of the threat China's air pollution poses. However, pressure is mounting and several provincial and municipal governments are beginning to record and report its air quality. The health consequences of China's high concentrations of air pollution include lung cancer and cardiovascular illness, which are both on the rise due to vehicle exhaust, factory emissions, and cigarette smoke. On particularly smoggy days, one doctor in Guangdong reports a 10% increase in patients. Air quality levels directly correlates to human sickness; for instance, cases of cardio failure increase by 1.28% for every 10 micrograms of PM2.5 (particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns) per cubic meter. Thus it is advised to wear a face mask and reduce exercise on heavily polluted days. However, the first crucial step necessary to solving the air pollution/public health problem is through government transparency.

China's Aging Population and Deteriorating Natural Environment will Constrain Growth

Ma Jianting, the head of China's National Bureau of Statistics, declared that the country's aging population and environmental problems will hamper China's economic growth. These remarks were made at the China Development Forum in Beijing a week after China lowered its GDP target growth in 2012 to a seven-year low of 7.5%. China's aging population has resulted in the labor force to overall population ratio dipping for the first time in 2011. While natural resources per capita is limited, China's large energy and resource consumption is resulting in high costs to control the severe pollution. Ma concluded that in order for China to maintain steady but rapid economic growth, efforts in reform and restructuring need to be increased.

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