In northeastern Guangdong, about 10,000 residents of Heyuan (population 2.9 million) protested the development of a new coal power plant. Some of the expressions made by the protesters either verbally or on signs were, “Give me back my blue sky. Go away power plant. Stop feeding people with smog”.
China has a severe air pollution problem, and burning coal to make electricity obviously is a major contributor to it. Air pollution was linked to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010.
One of the protestors said, “This is not just a small fraction of people with an ulterior motive but a concrete outpouring of public opinion from the entire Heyuan public. From babies to the elderly, everyone is appealing to our government to stop polluting our sky.”
Coal plant pollution does not only contaminate air; it also pollutes lakes, ponds, streams, rivers and soil.
It was reported several years ago that China planned on building hundreds of new coal power plants (which can operate and spew emissions for forty years). The emissions don’t only contain harmful pollutants for humans and animals, but also contribute to climate change and ocean acidification.
China has focused aggressively on expanding economically, so adding more electricity production has been necessary. An expanding middle class that enjoys consumer products which utilize electricity has also increased demand. The harmful air quality in many urban areas has been an unfortunate byproduct. It was reported in 2014 that about 75% of China’s electricity comes from coal burning plants. Of course, the huge nation is also developing new renewable energy in the form of wind and solar, but it still is a relatively small source of electricity.
China is a curious case because of its massive human population, and rapid industrialization. Both of these attributes at times stand in direct conflict with maintaining a healthy environmental balance.
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