Gov’t Announces Plan to Clean Up Rural Areas by 2020
(Beijing) – China has announced a five-year target to clean up the garbage and agricultural and industrial waste in its rural areas because of the mounting environmental and health hazards they pose, an official from the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development says.
“Garbage disposal in the countryside was not a problem in the past because nature itself could absorb the impact,” said Wang Xudong, but now the waste “has severely polluted the soil and water in rural areas and has begun to affect the growth of crops.”
The ministry and other government departments recently issued guidelines on how to handle garbage in rural areas and cleanup goals for the end of the decade.
The plan addresses the disposal of household garbage – which by the ministry’s estimate totals more than 110 million tons every year, on par with what homes in cities produce – and for the first time sets out targets for the recycling and cutting down of waste materials from agricultural and industrial operations.
The government wants more than 90 percent of household waste in all rural areas to be “effectively managed” by 2020, a goal that involves developing a financially sound and adequately supervised system that incorporates equipment, facilities and trained personnel.
The plan also aims to have all waste from livestock utilized, recycle more than four-fifths of the plastic used to build greenhouses, and to decontaminate and dispose of more than 95 percent of industrial waste and hazardous materials.
The guidelines also say rural areas should establish a garbage disposal mechanism modeled on that which has been tried out in several areas. Those pilots involve having garbage collected from villages, stored in towns and finally shipped to a county facility for recycling or burning.
The ministry started dealing with the rural garbage problem in 2005, but its efforts have been undercut by the sporadic nature of cleanup campaigns.
No long-term system for collecting and dispose of garbage has been devised, Wang said. Efforts to clean up rural areas often meant sweeping garbage off roads and into ditches or burying them in farmland, so “on the surface they looked clean, but in essence the problem was not solved at all.”
Said Wang: “Before long, everything returned to the mess it was.”
The cleanup efforts have also stalled because collecting and transporting waste is expensive, experts say.
Also, many villages cannot get service from garbage trucks because their roads are too narrow, said Luan Shengji, an environmental professor at Peking University.
That means the recent approach proposed by the government will succeed only in better-off villages, he said, and the proposal will fail in other areas without heavy government spending.
(Rewritten by Wang Yuqian)