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China Pays Environmental Price for Growth, Minister Says

China is paying a heavy environmental price for growth in gross domestic product and leaders will only solve the pollution problem if they change the country’s development model, a vice minister said.

China’s efforts to protect the environment have been weakened because power is spread among too many departments, Vice Environmental Protection Minister Wu Xiaoqing told a briefing. Seventy-one of 74 Chinese cities last year failed to meet air quality standards set for them, he said. Extremely heavy pollution in late February affected 15 provinces, Wu said.

“We are suffering in our pursuit of GDP growth,” Wu said at the briefing today during the annual session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing. “Our GDP needs to make a contribution to solving our environmental pollution problems.”

Premier Li Keqiang told the nation’s legislature this week that the country would “declare war” on smog and fight it with the same determination with which it tackled poverty.

The government invested more than 300 billion yuan ($49 billion) on environmental protection in 2013, a 14 percent increase from the previous year, and a similar pace of growth is likely this year, Wu said.

The government will start issuing data for water and soil pollution in June, he said. The country will focus more on using the law to fight pollution, according to the minister, who said the smog is the result of more vehicles on the road, urbanization and a reliance on coal.

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