China's historic and catastrophic pollution levels have decreased to a score of 400 in some parts of the city of Beijing, down from a record score of 755 last week. The bad news is that pollution crisis is still well above levels that are safe for humans. A normal level would be at a score of 25 or lower. According to a 21 Jan. UK Guardian report, a former high-level environmental official has blamed the pollution on China's unchecked government power.
83-year-old Qu Geping was China's first top environmental protection administrator from 1987 to 1993. He is quoted in a 21 Jan. article in the South China Morning Post,
"I have to admit that governments have done far from enough to rein in the wild pursuit of economic growth, and failed to avoid some of the worst pollution scenarios we, as policymakers, had predicted,"
Qu claims that China had a chance to prevent the current pollution crisis 30 to 40 years ago when powerful leaders made decisions that caused massive development, chaotic pollution and three devastating waves of pollution. Leaders made unbalanced decisions that did not consider pollution when they easily could have done so.
Unchecked power allowed China's governments to ignore environmental protection laws and regulations during eras of unchecked economic growth.
Qu talked about a balanced approach between growth and conservation, saying that China had workable programs as early as1983. The programs should have been put into serious practice while China was still in the early stages of industrialization, but they were not.
The Chinese mainland experienced at least three waves of pollution the 1980s. First, the township enterprises came. Farmers in the countryside ran these businesses. Unchecked growth released unprecedented pollution levels.
The second wave polluted major rivers and lakes and degraded urban air quality when infrastructure and industrial projects went on in the south. This happened in the 1990s, during the Deng Xiaoping era.
The third wave came with energy-intensive and high pollution heavy industries such as petrochemical, cement, iron and steel plants. This wave came during the Hu Jintao era.
In summary, China faces pollution problems that were caused by centralized and unchecked government power, where balance between environmental sanity and economic growth simply did not exist.