In China, acid rain has become a large problem. It cannot be denied –the effect of toxic rain is visible even on The Leshan Buddha. The giant statue that has drawn Buddhist pilgrims, tourists, and scholars for 1200 years is now discolored, its face appearing “sooty.” This is thanks to acid rain. Because of the statues importance in the culture, acid rain is no longer considered just an environmental problem, but also a threat to heritage. China’s highly industrialized society has resulted in this man-made pollutant, the highest concentrations of the problem being in southeast China where the most people, power-plants, and factories are located. The rain has received little international attention due to China’s many other environmental problems, but is a very serious problem. It not only erodes monuments, but also eats away at the outside of buildings, destroys paint finishes, poisons land, and turns bodies of water into lifeless puddles.
Acid rain also results in serious health effects including lung disease, heart attacks, and asthma. In 2001, Beijing implemented a national target for reducing SO2 levels in the 10th Five Year Plan (2001-2005). Beijing aimed to cut sulphur dioxide emissions 10 percent below that of 2001 by 2005, but instead emissions increased 28 percent. There is hope however. Between 2006 and 2009, China’s SO2 levels decreased by more than 13 percent. The government has begun to shut down hundreds of inefficient coal-run plants. Larger plants that have the money to install a more environmentally friendly method of production have done so. These plants are required to meet certain standards, as well as install SO2 monitoring systems. There are also monitoring systems to ensure the equipment is used appropriately. This is a key part of the plan to better the factories as using the inefficient equipment will increase production.
This national step of monitoring emissions, and making an effort to change, ultimately shows that China has adopted an ideology of being environmentally aware. Though there is still room for improvement. The systems implemented by the government are not perfect, and the country has a long way to go. Still, China’s recent change in thinking and acting is a reason for hope globally.