May 30, 2023
Comment: The Chinese People Don’t Need a Polluted GDP

Oct.17, 2011
China Environment News

A set of rules entitled “Regulations on the Management of Taihu Area” will take effect on Nov. 1, 2011. These rules will address issues of water resource protection around Taihu Lake, China's second-largest fresh water lake. The regulations make clear the principles governing water resources management: residents’ demand for domestic water should be satisfied first, and the water level of the lake should be properly maintained. On this basis, the regulations go on to tackle the management of key bodies of water including Taihu Lake, Taipu River and Xinmemg River. Monitoring and treatment of these waters should be increased and the development and utilization of water resources in this area must comply with relevant requirements. Meanwhile, regulations concerning water conservation, desilting and groundwater protection should be enhanced. Water recycling is encouraged so as to increase efficient usage. The waters should be regularly desilted to improve the environment. No one is allowed to tap confined groundwater without authorization.

The regulations also contain some systemic innovations. First, the total amount of pollutants discharged in this area will be controlled. It is clearly forbidden to launch industries which fall short of state industrial policies and requirements for water treatment. Second, the collection and disposal of domestic sewage in urban and rural areas should be strengthened, as should the prevention and treatment of water pollution by ships. Ships carrying poisonous materials and dangerous chemicals are forbidden from entering Taihu Lake. In addition, the regulations put forward related protective measures about crop production and aqua farming.

Therefore, the promulgation of the regulations is significant to the prevention and control of water pollution in China. The Taihu Lake Basin is among the most economically developed areas within the country. However, the local citizens have been suffering from water pollution, as illustrated by the still-present, painful memory of the Taihu blue algae outbreak in Wuxi several years ago. Economic development and social advancements must not impede the improvement of living conditions. However, during this year the chromium slag pollution in Qujing of southwestern Yunnan Province and the phenol leak in Hangzhou of eastern Zhejiang Province caused great trouble to locals, who panicked and emptied many supermarkets of their bottled water. As a matter of fact, The Taihu blue algae outbreak indicates to us the importance of people-oriented development. Accordingly, a local official felt that our way of sacrificing natural resources for economic development was no longer feasible. “We must improve the environment even if that means lowering our GDP,” said the official.

For a long time, regional government officials have ignored living conditions, concentrating instead on raising GDP and improving other measures of achievement taken during their tenure. Severe and non-obvious consequences are associated with the ignorance of environmental issues. The phenol tank leak in Hangzhou, which endangered the drinking water of some 550 thousand residents this summer, once more proved that our water system is in dire need of improvement.

Can people be happy and comfortable without clean water and fresh air? The concept of people-oriented, sound development should be further emphasized in [the government's approach to] economic development and environmental protection. That is to say that the model of development where our inherited environmental resources are sacrificed in the name of economic growth cannot continue. The preference for smaller GDP and better environmental governance can be understood as a step back in order to take two steps forward. This view promises to stop the environmental problems left over from the past, settle old scores and then embark on a new journey to truly realize sound and rapid development. Only when this understanding is strengthened may our country’s economy see more broad and robust development.

What is the ultimate criterion for political performance? The satisfaction of the people! A polluted GDP should not be the government’s goal. Working in the public’s interest and for sustained economic health is what a responsible government should do. In the final analysis, development must firmly prioritize quality over speed. Only in that way can social and economic development begin to follow a more harmonious track.

Translated by: Tong Jun (, Su Qiwen (, Yin Xiaochen (
Proofread by: Samantha Wolfe
Edited by: Madelyn Finucane