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Rural factories won't fix Chinese pollution

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China's green movement is awakening and starting to receive global attention (see, for example, Q. Wang et al. Nature 489, 502; 2012). The municipal governments of Qidong and Shifang should be applauded for suspending two planned industrial plants likely to cause widespread pollution (Nature 488, 261–262; 2012). But there may be plans afoot to relocate these to rural areas.

Moving factories from cities to rural areas is becoming more common. The relocation by local government of a US$1.4-billion paraxylene plant from Xiamen City in Fujian province to the less-developed Gulei Town was not welcomed by residents (T. Ma China Environ. Ser. 10, 33–49; 2008/2009). Their protests received little media attention or help from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the new plant is now almost complete.

Shifting pollution from urban to rural areas can only be a short-term fix. For example, rural and semi-rural factories trebled their contribution to the national wastewater discharge between 1990 and 2007 (see go.nature.com/kdgsh3; in Chinese), and there are more than 200 cancer-cluster villages in China where pollution is suspected as the major cause of death.

More local NGOs are needed to support rural populations in suing polluting industrialists. To ensure sustainability of the country's huge production system, industrialists must embrace the green economy and tackle factory pollution at source.

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Correspondence to Hong Yang.

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Yang, H., Flower, R. & Thompson, J. Rural factories won't fix Chinese pollution. Nature 490, 342–343 (2012) doi:10.1038/490342d

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