Protecting environment tops public concerns in poll

Updated: 2014-05-16 06:53

By Wang Hongyi in Shanghai (China Daily)

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About 60 percent of Chinese want the government to give priority to environmental protection when boosting economic growth, according to a survey released on Thursday.

The Public Opinion Research Laboratory of Shanghai Jiao Tong University polled by telephone more than 8,500 residents from 35 cities about Chinese people's basic living conditions and how they look at public services and hot social issues.

Of the 8,500, the survey asked 1,050 residents about the environment. More than half of the 1,050 said they had concerns, with women paying more attention to environmental protection than men.

"In recent years, environmental issues have been seriously increasing, and the public has expressed concerns. In light of this, the government should work out effective solutions," said Xie Yungeng, a Shanghai Jiao Tong University professor who compiled the report.

Eighty-three percent of respondents said their cities have smog, and about one-third said that smog is serious.

In seven cities - Beijing, Harbin, Hefei, Nanjing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Zhengzhou - up to 60 percent thought the smog in their cities was serious.

Regarding its impact on their lives, 63 percent said they reduced unnecessary trips and about 72 percent said they reduced their outdoor activities.

Higher-educated respondents tended to agree that environmental protection should be put ahead of economic development, and they were more willing to report and complain about environmental damage, the report said.

"Checking the Air Quality Index has become a must-do each day before I go to work. We hope that the government will work out tangible results in environmental protection, such as limiting vehicles and promoting public transportation," said Zhao Xin, a man in his early 30s.

Xie, the report's compiler, said: "Increasing public complaints will help push the government to improve its work. But if such opinions are not given enough attention, the public will feel helpless and become less active in environmental protection".

About 58 percent of respondents believe the government plays a critical role in environmental protection, and 43 percent said government environmental assessments lack credibility, according to the report.

Regional environmental pollution reports should be more transparent, letting residents know what happened, according to experts.

Although residents pay close attention to smog, only 38 percent said they knew what causes it.

The report stressed that public awareness of environmental protection should be improved and should be especially cultivated from childhood.

The Shanghai Environmental Educational Coordination Committee said on Thursday that it will roll out a series of activities this year to encourage a change in behavior and mindset among primary and middle school students.

"Strengthening environmental education in schools is a very important part of improving public awareness of environmental issues," said Zhao Caixin, an official from the committee.

About 70 percent said they have confidence in the improvement of the country's environment in the future, report said.

(China Daily 05/16/2014 page4)