03-15-2007 09:17

China has become a net oil importer and the second biggest energy consuming nation following the US. But, the energy supply cannot meet the growing demand. During the hot summer, many factories in southern China would have to be shut down at the height of the electricity demand. And as we depend on coal burning for almost 70 percent of the energy consumption, our air gets polluted. The discharge of industrial wastes threatens to further erode the fiber of our health. The novel idea of green GDP no longer sounds fresh for the policy makers in this energy-hungry nation.

North China's Shanxi province is well-known for its abundance of coal and coke. But it is also known for heavy environmental pollution caused by massive coke production. With an increasing awareness of the importance of environmental protection, some local companies are at the forefront of environmentally-friendly production. Our reporter Liu Ming takes us to visit one such company, in Jiexiu city.

These senior citizens enjoy their daily exercises, chatting and laughing together in the open air. But they were reluctant to come outdoors three years ago.

A local villager said, "The air was polluted and we couldn't see clearly. And our farmland was covered with a layer of black."

"The environment was unpleasant. Our face and clothes turned black when we went out."

Their suffering was due to a coke-making company two kilometers away from the village. It emitted a large amount of coal dust and harmful sulfur dioxide into the air. This grave situation was not dealt with until 2004, when the company enacted changes to protect the environment.

Wei Chuanwu, director of Shanxi Sanjia Coal-Chemistry Co., said, "Traditionally, coal is charged into coke and is output at a temperature as high as 1,200 degrees centigrade. After we started using our self-made clean coke-making ovens, we release harmless gases and little coal dust into the atmosphere."

Their new coke ovens use lower temperatures, and avoid the heavy emission of monstrous smoke and dust clouds. The company made a large investment into research and development. And it's paying off -- separating coal loading from burning also makes the process faster. But company leaders believe it's worthwhile in terms of environmental protection alone.

Jia Wenyuan, vice president of Shanxi Sanjia Coal-Chemistry Co., said, "After years of production, we have ever-increasing awareness of protecting our environment. We must strike a balance between making profits and creating a blue sky. It is for the benefit of not merely ourselves but also our offspring."

Their clean reforms are carried out through to the very end of the production process. Under negative pressure, waste gases in the burning oven are sucked into a chamber where oxygen is added to prevent harmful macro-molecule gases from forming. The remaining gases then go through a desulphurization and filtering process to become colorless, odorless and harmless, before being released into the air.

That explains why local villagers are happy with the change.

A local villager said, "Now we are healthier and we are willing to come outside for fun, because the air quality is becoming better and better. "

Better, but far from perfect. Success stories like this one are still rare in this polluted province. Most coal mines and chemical plants still only care about profits.

So far, man has been successful in using the natural environment for survival and even comfortable lifestyle. But our natural resources are deteriorating as we continue to create an industrial life and modern world. If we are not clever enough to protect it now, we are doomed to be severely punished in the future.


Editor:Liu Fang