People in China now rate environmental protection higher than economic growth, according to a survey report released here Thursday. The survey, issued by the China Environmental Culture Promotion Association, found 79.4 percent of the respondents approved of putting environmental protection ahead of economic growth.

Carried out like a Gallup poll, the survey covered 3,777 people in the 18-64 age bracket in eight cities, five towns and seven villages. All have lived in local areas for more than two years.

"The survey shows the public feel the urgency of environmental problems. That's a very encouraging development," said an official with the association.

The survey showed that 78.8 percent of the public believe government input in environmental protection is inadequate and call for more; 60 percent believe awareness-raising campaigns are not good enough. The public recommends two approaches to addressing environmental problems: rigid law enforcement and more vigorous publicity efforts.

The respondents rank air pollution caused by industrial pollution as their top environmental concern, followed by garbage treatment and sewage treatment. However, the survey disclosed that the general public's actions do not match their rising environmental awareness. Only 6.3 percent of people had taken part in environmental protection in the preceding three months. Participation in efforts to save water, for example, or electricity, is low. Experts here ascribed the phenomenon to a lack of mature mechanisms to facilitate public participation.

"Many people are unaware of what rights they have and what steps they could take," said an official with the association. "More measures should be taken, including making more specific laws and regulations, to help people make their contribution to environmental protection."

China suffered several grave environmental incidents last year, including serious pollution of northeast China's Songhua River. The accident forced cities along the river to stop drawing water from the river for several days and annoyed downstream Russian cities. The accident alerted the government and people alike to the serious impact of environmental pollution and compelled them to take immediate action.