Research showing that 750,000 people die prematurely in China each
year from pollution was cut from a World Bank report following pressure
from Beijing, the Financial Times said Tuesday.
Beijing successfully lobbied for the removal of a third of the
report, entitled the "Cost of Pollution in China," arguing the contents
could lead to social unrest, the London-based newspaper said.
China's State Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and health
ministry asked the World Bank to remove the figures from a draft of the
report finished last year that stated about 750,000 people die
prematurely each year from pollution.
Removal of detailed map
China also successfully pushed for the removal of a detailed map
showing which parts of the country suffered the most deaths, the
"The World Bank was told that it could not publish this information.
It was too sensitive and could cause social unrest," the Financial
Times quoted one adviser to the study as saying.
The draft was released at a conference on sustainable development in
Beijing in March, and remains available on the Internet, without the
The World Bank, which put together the report in cooperation with
Chinese government ministries over several years, acknowledged on
Tuesday that some data had been withdrawn from the draft but did not go
The World Bank said in a statement sent to AFP that the published
version "did not include some of the issues that are still under
Still under review
The statement said the final report was "still under review," while
there was no comment on the allegations that Chinese pressure had led
to the sensitive data being removed.
The published report on the Internet said "conservative" estimates
put the cost of premature death caused by air pollution in China at
157.3 billion yuan (20.7 billion dollars) in 2003, but gave no
estimates on the numbers affected.
Its foreword said that "certain physical impact estimations" had
been left out of the draft of the report "due to... some uncertainties
about calculation methods and its application."
Guo Xiaomin, a retired SEPA official who coordinated the Chinese
research team, told the Financial Times the cuts were made partly
because of concerns that the methodology was unreliable.
But he added the information on premature deaths "could cause
misunderstanding," the newspaper said. Guo also expressed concerns over
the size of the 148-page report.
"We did not announce these figures. We did not want to make this
report too thick," he told the Financial Times.
Officials from China's environment agency or health ministry were
not available for comment on Tuesday, while the foreign ministry
refused to comment.
China's communist rulers have a history of suppressing information
that they perceive as sensitive. However, in recent years they have
pledged to be more transparent.
In 2003, the deadly SARS virus originated in China and the
government was widely condemned for initially covering up the disease,
enabling the virus to spread around the world more easily.
Foreign media, informed by a retired army whistle-blower doctor
Jiang Yanyong, eventually exposed the cover-up, but the disease went on
to kill over 800 people worldwide, including 349 in China.
Despite the pledges of transparency, the government-controlled press
continues today to ignore or play down sensitive issues such as
protests and environmental accidents. - (Sapa)
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