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Environment lottery idea sparks debate

Environment lottery idea sparks debate

Updated: 2012-03-15 07:25

By Zheng Xin (China Daily)

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A legislator's proposal to establish an environmental protection lottery - which aims to rapidly raise funds to improve air quality and curb water pollution - has caused controversy.

A shortage of capital has limited efforts to curb environmental problems, said Chen Fei, a farmer and National People's Congress deputy from East China's Zhejiang province.

"Apart from solving the capital shortage, the lottery would raise public awareness of environmental protection."

China currently uses lotteries to raise funds for social welfare and sports projects.

A total of 206 billion yuan ($32.7 billion) has been raised through the welfare lottery ticket sales, totaling 636.6 billion yuan since 1987, when they were first issued. Funds raised from sports lottery ticket sales have reached 142 billion yuan since the lottery was launched in 1994.

However, Chen's proposal has not met with universal support.

Despite some scientists' claims that the country's environmental protection investment remains low compared with the country's GDP, Feng Yongfeng, founder of Green Beagle, a Beijing-based environmental protection NGO, said the key to improving air quality and curbing water pollution does not lie in investment.

He said a lottery would do little to benefit environmental protection.

According to Feng, the essence of environmental protection lies in the harsh punishment of polluters.

"What we lack at the moment is an accountability system, rather than investment," Feng said.

And some people say that the proposed lottery would see a transfer of the government's responsibilities to the public.

"This is like collecting money from private pockets for State revenue," said Zhou Yan, an English teacher in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu province.

"Why should we folks cough up for what should have been done by the government?" asked Zhou.

Wang Yu, a 26-year-old Beijinger, also disagreed with the proposal, saying it would serve to encourage gambling.

"It's a quick way to raise funds," he said. "Yet we cannot just rely on lotteries to solve a problem."

In Chen's opinion, without a better solution to the scarce investment in environmental protection, the country could invest the lottery funds in some pilot projects and expand it nationwide, if the results were good.

Last year, the world's first environmental protection lottery was unveiled in the United Kingdom, as part of the nation's drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ease up climate change.

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Some related Proposals

PM2.5 standards

China should be taking PM2.5 readings, which track particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, to monitor its air quality nationwide by the end of this year instead of 2015, the deadline set earlier by the government, said Zhong Nanshan, NPC deputy and a respiratory expert.

Decoration safety

Measures to prevent indoor environmental pollution should be taken and stricter punishment given to makers of building and decorative materials harmful to people's health, said Zhang Qingwei, NPC deputy, who is also a member of the Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party.

Heating system

Urban heating systems should be extended to South China, said Zhang Xiaomei, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

However, many others said that the proposal would hurt the environment because it would increase energy usage.

Zheng Xin