Wednesday, June 20, 2007
As Glaciers Melt and Rivers Dry Up, Coal-Fired Power Stations Multiply
by Jonathan Watts / John Vidal, The Guardian UK
BEIJING - On a bad day - which can be hundreds in a year - the ancient city of Linfen in the northern province of Shanxi is environmental hell. Named by the World Bank last year as having the worst air quality on Earth, its 3.5 million people more often than not choke on coal dust; its soil and its rivers are covered with soot, and its Buddhas are blackened and shrouded in a toxic mist.
The cause is Linfen’s 196 iron foundries, its 153 coking plants, its unregulated coalmines, tar factories, steelworks and domestic homes, all of which burn cheap, easily accessible brown coal.
Shanxi is the centre of China’s vast and growing coal industry, which was pinpointed yesterday by Dutch government scientists as the major culprit, along with the cement industry, in the country’s sudden surge to the top of the world’s league of greenhouse gas emitters.
In the last six years, the Chinese coal industry, with reserves put at more than 1 trillion tonnes, has doubled production to more than 1.2bn tonnes a year. The country is now building 550 coal-fired power stations - opening at the equivalent of two a week - and in the five years to 2005, electricity generation rose 150%.