China Environmental Health Project
In China, natural geologic conditions relating to the development of safe drinking water sources, as well as more widespread domestic and industrial air pollution from coal burning, have profound impacts on public health. Millions of people suffer from health problems and limits to economic development that result from widespread environmental problems. While remarkable economic growth and related quality of life impacts have to some degree transformed China's urban eastern provinces, tens of millions of rural residents, particularly in the southwest, survive below the country's poverty threshold of about 680 yuan (~$100) per year.
Following ten years of collaborative research in karst hydrogeology and geochemistry between Western Kentucky University (WKU), the Institute of Karst Geology in Guilin China, and Southwest University (SWU) in Chongqing China, in 2006 the China Environmental Health Project (CEHP) was initiated with major support from the US Agency for International Development and the ENVIRON Foundation. The goal of this project is to enhance the implementation of solutions to the complex environmentally-related public health problems of this region and enhance existing US-Chinese partnerships. Specifically, we aim to improve the quality of public health in China by building sustainable capacity through the engagement of Chinese scientists, students, local governments, and citizens in hands-on training.
Specifically, the technical focus of the project is two-fold: 1) to find solutions to water access and quality issues that exist in the karst regions of southwest China, and 2) address air quality issues in China that arise from coal-related emissions. To date, with regard to water sustainability, we have developed a program to improve environmental/public health conditions with regard to karst water supply through an academic partnership with SWU along with A Child's Right and the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.