Acid Rain Affects Large Swathes of China Published on August 28, 2006 , Source : Environment News Network BEIJING — Acid rain caused by sulphur dioxide spewed from factories and power plants affected a third of China's vast land mass last year, posing a threat to food safety, Xinhua news agency said citing a parliamentary report. More than half of the 696 cities and counties monitored had suffered acid rain, in some cases on a daily basis, according to a pollution inspection report submitted to the standing committee of parliament, the official agency said. "Increased sulphur dioxide emissions meant that one third of China's territory was affected by acid rain, posing a major threat to soil and food safety," Xinhua cited NPC standing committee vice chairman Sheng Huaren as saying. Discharge of sulphur dioxide in booming China rose by 27 percent between 2000 and 2005 to 25 million tonnes, making the country the world's top emitter of the pollutant. Sheng told lawmakers that China's sulphur dioxide emissions, caused largely by coal-burning power stations and coking plants, were double the acceptable environmental limit. According to the report's findings, nearly 650 out of 680 coking plants in Shanxi, the country's main coal-mining province, discharged excessive sulphur dioxide, Xinhua said. Air pollution, caused mainly by sulphur dioxide and particulate matter, was affecting some 40 percent of Chinese cities, Sheng said. China has pledged to install desulphurisation facilities in coal-burning power plants and is planning pilot emissions trading schemes to help improve air quality. The capital, Beijing, has promised to replace its notorious smog with clear skies in time for the 2008 Olympics. In the same parliamentary report, Sheng also lifted the lid on false reporting of solid waste discharge levels by local governments and companies. Actual levels of toxic chromium waste in China could be as high as five million tons instead of the 4.1 million reflected in official figures, Xinhua cited the report as saying. "Many firms report a lower figure for chromium waste for fear of being punished," Sheng said. One locality had originally reported that it had 3,000 tons of chromium waste but raised the figure to 100,000 tons after learning the government would build reprocessing facilities for them instead of fining them, he said.