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China has experienced the world’s fastest economic development over the past decades. At the same time, it has faced environmental degradation, and growing barriers against development. China’s most productive city Shanghai has taken a particularly major role in China’s economic and political development. However, the city could not avoid confrontation with environmental challenges, especially water pollution. The rapid economic growth and industrialisation have generated high pressure on the city’s environment.
Although Shanghai is a coastal economic city with abundant water sources from various rivers such as Yangtze River and Changjiang River, the city has suffered from polluted water and water shortage. The first reason is water pollution. According to Shanghai Water Authority (Shanghai Municipal Oceanic Bureau, SWA), majority of surface water in the city has been polluted and the water quality does not meet the drinking water quality standards  . Also, only 2.3 per cent of the Huangpu River, Shanghai’s main water supplies, met the grade 1-2 of water quality and 23.0 per cent attained grade 3. The rest 73.8 per cent was rated as grade 4-5 (China Water Risk Report 2010). Second, Shanghai’s water infrastructure provides 56.1% of the total water supply to its industry sector, which includes power plants and coal-fired factories, 14.3% to agriculture, and 10.1% to 23 million residents of its greater municipality (UNEP, 2010)  .
This research argues that the Shanghai government has made improvements to solve the water pollution problem, but these haven’t been sufficient to resolve the persistent water pollution in the city. The Shanghai authority insists that it is aware of the deterioration of the environment, and it has promoted more balanced patterns of development using concepts such as “harmonious society” and “scientific development.” For instance, the municipal government launched $586 billion economic stimulus package in late 2008, and it invested majorly in environment conservation projects, especially, water pollution projects. Also the government implemented the “Plan of Underground Water Pollution Prevention and Control(2010-2011)” which cost about %5.4 billion(IBIS, 2012)  . However, some research conducted by scholars such as Thomas Johnson (2009) and the Chinese Policy Research Center for Environment and Economy (2006) raised skepticism on the Shanghai government’s environmental governance since there hasn’t been a noticeable improvement. Also some empirical data show that the emissions of major water pollutants from the industrial sector is still considered serious, and the amount of wastewater discharged from the industrial and household sectors continues to increase.
First, this research assumes that the Shanghai government’s governance has been experiencing difficulties in controlling water pollution because of the weak legal instrument in restricting pollutants emission. In regard with water protection, the government has several legal measures such as Environmental impact assessment system(EIA), The “Three Simultaneity System”, Pollution levy system, Pollution discharge reporting system, Emission permit system, Total emission control system, Enforcement of pollution abatement for noncompliance, and Enforcement of shutting down, merging and transferring system(Xin, 2009). Nonetheless, the law enforcement and penalty imposition have not been effective in practice, which caused the failure in restricting pollutants emission. For example, the amount of three major pollutant emissions – SO2, COD and soot – has not been successfully decreased. In SO2’s case, the amount of industrial emission even increased during 1990-2006 (Wen, 2007)  .
1. Does the Shanghai government have sufficient legal measures in restricting water pollutant emission?
2. If not, what are the causes of the problem?
Second, the Shanghai government does not seem to be fully motivated to implement water protection policies. Since the state government’s major concern is economic growth under the GDP- based development system, the municipal governments, including Shanghai, inevitably have been economic growth-oriented affected by the state government’s regime. As indicated above, more than half of the water supplies in Shanghai have been allocated in the industry sector. Also, the environment department of the government has suffered from securing sufficient technical human resources because of its budget limit, which means the government has put its high priority to the industrialization and economic growth.
1. Has the water pollution issue been high on the Shanghai government’s priorities?
Third, this research presumes that the accessibility the accurate information and data and the inactive public participation have detracted from the Shanghai government’s effectiveness in implementing the environmental governance. Although accurate information and its accessibility and active public participation could take a major role in the government’s environmental governance, the rate of public participation is rather low and the accessibility of the accurate information is still limited in comparison with other developed countries. The public should be able to access the accurate information and data, and be involved in the monitoring and evaluation system. For example, NGOs could be a substitute for the expensive technical human resources.
1. Does the Shanghai government have the easy accessibility for the public to accurate environmental information and data?
The Shanghai government’s governance regarding water pollution issues has not been sufficient. Since the government is driven by the economic growth-oriented regime of the centre government, the law enforcement in restricting water pollutant emissions have been ineffective despite several legal measures. Also the public does not have easy accessibility of the accurate information and data. These three factors have not successfully improved the water quality in Shanghai, which will cause a serious water shortage. The water shortage will have repercussion for the whole country. It will directly affect the citizens’ well being and hinder China from sustainable development.
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