Sustainable growth is an article of faith

Updated: 2014-07-01 08:52

By Li Lianxing (China Daily)

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"A company can grow its economy by investing in environmental industries. China's environmental industry has grown at an average of 15 percent a year in recent years, and it employs 1.82 million people. The annual income generated from this emerging sector amounts to $67.88 billion."

While for many people the term "environmental protection" may conjure up only the idea of air pollution, it also takes in myriad other areas, including water, land and wildlife. Nevertheless, the foul air that many Chinese urban dwellers have to cope with may be playing a key educational role, says Yan Luhui, founder of Carbonstop Co Ltd in Beijing, a pioneer in China with carbon management software and consulting.

"Chinese now realize the importance of environmental protection because of the terrible air and smog that many living in cities are having to put up with," Yan says.

"Initiatives from individuals, companies and factories are very important because it is they who are the real players in this game."

Environmental pollution has so affected people's lives that the government was bound to act, and that in turn has influenced the way many companies in China are developing, Yan says.

"The number of those coming to us looking for professional advice on reducing pollution and adopting a green development mode has risen in the past few years, and we see this as huge progress in raising awareness. On the other hand, this field in China is so new that there has been no successful business model, so we have had to move carefully as we look to become a respected carbon emissions management organization."

Even though China is a newcomer to the field, that does not necessarily mean it has nothing to share with other countries, especially developing ones, including those in Africa, Yan says.

Many have long heralded Africa as the last paradise on Earth, largely untarnished by industrial pollution and other environmental problems, but in reality the continent has its own environmental demons to deal with.

Ecological crisis

Alex Awiti, director of the East African Institute of The Aga Khan University in Nairobi, says Africa's natural environment is in a perilous state.

"Africa's lakes and rivers are some of the most polluted. For example, Lake Victoria is experiencing an ecological crisis arising from eutrophication and the collapse of fisheries. Most of the pollution in the lake comes from municipal waste and soil erosion from farm and pasture land."

Forestry in the continent is under heavy pressure from logging, and the vital savanna is under assault from expanding agriculture, infrastructure and unplanned urbanization, which also threaten wildlife, he says.

"Africa's environmental challenges are exacerbated by rapid population expansion into fragile dryland ecosystems, forests and wetlands. Upland deforestation in many countries now threatens major river basins and surface water supply systems. Climate change is exerting additional pressure and could accelerate the collapse of vital ecological services.