Quantitative assessment on public awareness of environmental protection in response to environmental incidents: a case for Taihu Lake algae bloom
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Copyright © 2011 The Authors and MSSANZ
In China, the water quality of most main lakes and catchments has been degrading since the 1970s. Specifically in 2009, large areas of the water in Huai, Hai and Liao rivers (three main rivers in China) and Taihu, Caohu and Dianchi lakes were of poor quality (below the worst category V), 17.4%, 42.2%, 36.1% 19.3%, 62.5% and 41.7% respectively (China Environmental Protection Bureau, 2009). Furthermore, there is serious eutrophication in 85% of Chinese lakes with nonpoint sources pollution accounting for approximately 50% of the total pollutants discharge into the lakes in eastern China (Qin et al., 2007). Industrial discharges and household sewages are the main sources of water pollution in the country (Hays, 2008). While industrial pollution can be treated through technology renovation and controlled by environmental regulations and laws, decreasing household sewage in an efficient and sustainable way relies on the residents themselves. For example, more than 60% of the total phosphorus in Taihu Lake comes from household sewage and public awareness is essential for ensuring effective environmental improvement and protection (Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, 2011).Not many quantitative studies have been conducted to examine such environmental awareness, particularly the changes in the awareness levels in response to a major environment pollution incident. This paper establishes a system of indicators for the assessment of public awareness. Combined with a fuzzy matter-element analysis method, a model is set up to quantitatively assess public awareness of environmental protection. The model is applied to assess the environmental awareness of the residents of Wuxi city after their major lake Taihu suffered a severe algae bloom in 2007 which can be considered a serious environmental incident. This study aims at examining whether such an environmental incident can affect people’s environmental awareness, and what is its degree of impact on the changes in public awareness of environmental protection in Wuxi. The study finds that the matter-element model is capable and resolves well the fuzziness of the ranking affiliation and classification for subjective objects such as people’s environmental awareness. In addition, the assessment results indicate that the environmental incident has significant positive impacts on people’s awareness of environmental protection. The paper concludes with some important recommendations related to raising people’s environmental protection awareness.
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