Stimulus “won’t harm environment”

The Chinese government’s economic stimulus package will be strictly monitored for projects that cause pollution, according to a ministry of environmental protection official, the Associated Press reported. Vice minister Zhang Lijun made the comment in addressing worries that officials would ignore the environment in an effort to maintain China’s high economic growth rates.

Only projects concerning infrastructure and improving public welfare will get approval for fast-track environmental assessments, Zhang said. All others will be subject to a more rigorous assessment.

China’s four-trillion-yuan (US$586 billion) stimulus package, to increase domestic demand during the global financial crisis, was announced last November. The environmental ministry has approved 365 projects related to the stimulus, while rejecting or postponing 29 high-energy ones, such as petrochemical plants, steel factories and coal-powered power plants, Zhang said.

Of the stimulus money, a total of 210 billion yuan (US$30.7 billion) is earmarked for environmental-protection projects and improving energy efficiency. But less than one-tenth of the 230 billion yuan (US$33.8 billion) of stimulus money spent in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 went to that, Zhang said. “The government’s endeavors to stimulate domestic demand and stimulate economic growth will have little effect on our environmental protection efforts,” he noted.

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