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Ecological Resources Use Below Average

Per capita consumption of ecological resources like water and land in China is still under the world's average, despite a rapid rise in demand, a newly published report said.

The report by the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) and the WWF said on Tuesday that China's ecological footprint, a measurement of biologically productive land and water area needed to meet the demands of a population, in 2003 was 1.6 hectares per person, 69th in the world.

China's footprint in 2003, the latest figure available, is lower than the world average ecological footprint of 2.2 hectares per person, the report said.

However, despite the low per capita consumption, China has run an ecological deficit since the mid-1970s, demanding more biological capacity than its own ecosystems can provide each year, the report said.

"This has led to lasting degradation of our ecological surroundings, and we should be vigilant," Shen Guofang, chief advisor of CCICED, said.

However, he criticized some global experts and organizations for their "patchy understanding" of China's environmental problems, especially ignoring the country's reality of a huge population and status as a developing country.

The report said China, which has 22 percent of the world's population, uses 15 percent of the world's total biological capacity of 14 billion hectares. The United States with 300 million people consumes 20 percent.

Given its huge population, China is now consuming more than twice as much as what its ecosystems can supply, having doubled its needs since the 60s, the report said.

Steve Goldfinger, senior scientist of the US-based Global Footprint Network said: "The analysis can help us have a clear understating of just how much of nature's resources we are using and it seems that China should change its development model."

The report recommended a package of measures to achieve China's sustainable development goals. It said China could "lead the way for the world as a whole" if it balances well its environmental needs.

(China Daily June 11, 2008)

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