Cleaner skies good for business

Updated: 2013-11-13 07:18

By Wang Zhenghua (China Daily)

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Governments and companies are increasingly taking advantage of the unscathed ecological environment in their regions to lure investment amid concerns pollution is taking its toll on health.

Unpolluted waters, premium air quality, a high percentage of forest coverage and even blue skies were major selling points when governments and enterprises tried to seek business opportunities in metropolises such as Shanghai.

Cleaner skies good for business

Visitors enjoy a clear day at the Bund in Shanghai on Friday. The city's Fengxian district promotes its clean air and well-preserved environment to draw investment and business opportunities. Zhou Dongchao / for China Daily

This kind of promotion is attractive and effective, government officials and business leaders said, as smoggy weather has become the norm in a large swathe of China.

Shanghai was shrouded in a heavy haze blown from the north on Nov 7. As of 3 pm, the air quality index given by the Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center had surged to 253, indicating serious pollution.

Wei Meng, director of the investment promotion bureau for the mechanics and electronics sector in Suqian, Jiangsu province, said, "We're proud of our clear water and blue sky, and we usually start each business promotion session by introducing our unscathed environment."

With a 5.6 million population, Suqian, 512 km north of Shanghai, is a prefecture-level city known for its well-preserved environment.

According to Wei, the natural advantages of Suqian include its long frost-free period - more than 210 days every year - and excellent water quality in its rivers and lakes, such as Luoma Lake.

In a ranking of cities' air quality by the Ministry of Environmental Protection this year, Suqian was 12th among 74 large cities, beating all other cities in the province such as Suzhou, Nanjing and Wuxi.

In the annual reports by the city's environmental protection bureau, the city registered 336 days without air pollution in 2012, and it did not report any acid rain in 2011 and 2012. The air quality is still improving.

"It's a consensus from Suqian's highest organizations down to the grassroots that we cannot sacrifice the environment for the sake of economy," Wei said.

The government is attaching more importance to the environment as other cities are plagued by the worsening air quality and polluted rivers.

As such, the advantages Suqian has in its environment sector has turned out to be a magnet, as a number of major Chinese food companies such as Wahaha, Huiyuan and Dali Group of Fujian province, which has strict environmental requirements, set up plants there.

The city is investing in the causes of eliminating the out-dated techniques in the texture industry to reduce its impact on ecology, Wei added.

Alongside the government, some enterprises are starting to realize the importance of an unscathed environment.

Qin Mingxiang, president of Liangqi Ecological Agriculture Technology Co, is aware of how the intact ecology in the region has served as a big promotion for his company.

Liangqi, a tea producer, is based in Yuexi, a small county with a forest coverage rate of 73 percent in southwest Anhui province. Since the company began for the first time producing summer tea - picked between June and August as opposed to traditional tea picked in April or the late autumn - it has sold more than 800 metric tons of the product around China and in northern Africa.

The company, set up in 2003, is competing with manufacturers in other better-known tea producing areas, such as Anhui's Huangshan and Zhejiang's Hangzhou, by making full use of Yuexi's environment.

"The premium environment is our trump card," Qin said, adding his clients are attracted by the tea plants grown on a land without pollution.

"The air is clear, the water is not polluted, and the level of negative oxygen ions here is dozens of times better than the provincial capital, Hefei."

Qin also said the government is aware of how to turn their ecological advantage into business opportunities, and it has done a lot to protect the environment.

"A slogan on the lips of government officials is, get out of Yuexi if you generate pollution," he said.

Other regions promoting clean air and unpolluted rivers to attract investment and business opportunities include Baoji in Shaanxi province, Shanghai's Fengxian district and Qingyuan county in Zhejiang province.

Government figures showed Baoji, one of the top 10 ecological and livable cities in China, attracted 417 investment projects worth 24 billion yuan ($3.9 billion) in the first nine months.

The well-preserved environment is also a major attraction for real estate developers, industry insiders said.

Purifiers in demand

On the other side, many companies have seen the business opportunities from China's air problem, which the country's top climate change negotiator Xie Zhenhua said will be alleviated in five to 10 years.

The demand for air purifiers, for example, is rising rapidly, and many companies flocked to tap the nascent market, on the basis that only 0.3 percent of China's households have an air purifier at home.

"As the winter comes, the demand for purifiers will grow further," said Chen Jun, vice-chairman of the Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce in Beijing.

"Some developers are trying to sell more properties by offering free air purifiers in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, and Beijing," he said. "Of course, these are only sales tactics, but they reflect the importance of clean air in people's daily lives."

Wang Ying and Xie Yu in Shanghai contributed to this story.