The holiday is over, and here’s some news to bring you right back to down to earth. Or even further down underneath the earth where its apparently pretty smelly. The front page of the Strait Times (海峡都市报) from Fujian province today reports that the groundwater of 90% of Chinese cities is polluted to some degree, and that of around 60% is “severely polluted”. These depressing findings were recently uttered by an official from the China Geological Survey (中国地质调查局) at an international groundwater forum.
Strait Times today also reports on the Weibo river campaign recently launched by Deng Fei on his microblog, and one man who took Deng’s campaign a step further by promising openly to give the head of a city environmental protection office 200,000 yuan if he swam for 20 minutes in a polluted river.
Strait Times also note a separate report from Xinhua of a study of 118 cities in China which found that the groundwater of 64% of cities is severely polluted, while that of 33% is mildly polluted. Only a measly 3% of cities have clean groundwater. An official from the Beijing Public Environmental Research Center summed up the full significance of this: the sources of drinking water in China’s cities have been polluted, and especially so with what he described as heavy metal contamination (金属污染) containing organic matter pollution that is extremely difficult for traditional water treatment methods to process.
Strait Times also reports today on the brouhaha kicked off on 12 February by the activist Deng Fei, who launched a tirade on his microblog accusing a number of chemical and paper companies in two cities in Shandong province of using high-pressure wells to pump sewage water 1,000 meters underground without the authorities knowing anything about it.
The accusations kicked up by Deng Fei on the Internet initially got scant responses from the relevant authorities in the two cities, yet on the 17th of February one of the cities, Weifang, belatedly responded when an official in the city told Xinhua that an investigation had been launched in the city on the 15th. By the 17th a total of 715 companies had been investigated, but no transgressions were found. This response, however, met with some suspicion online with various people questioning how 715 companies could have been effectively monitored in only three days.
The same Deng Fei recently posted a message on his microblog asking people to upload pictures of the rivers in their hometowns (see Tea Leaf Nation for more details on Deng Fei’s campaign and how the Internet censors became involved). Various pictures were uploaded of rivers both clean and polluted, but one man from Hangzhou took Deng’s campaign a step further. On 16 February, the chairman of a company manufacturing spectacles in Hangzhou in Zhejiang province named Jin Zhengmin (金增敏) noted on his Sina Weibo microblog that a river in Ruian (瑞安市) in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, was badly polluted. He himself grew up in Ruian and remembers when the river was clean enough to do laundry in. So Jin challenged the head of the environmental protection office to swim in the river for 20 minutes, and if he did, Jin would give him 200,000 yuan. On the 17th, the Ruian official in question, Bao Zhenming (包振明), told reporters that the river was really only contaminated with domestic garbage, not industrial waste. So I guess that made it OK? Apparently he still hasn’t taken the swim.
Links and sources
Strait Times (海峡都市报): 城市地下水只有3%基本清洁; 企业将污水排到千米地下?; 企业家悬赏20万请环保局长游泳
Tech in Asia: Deng Fei Launches Weibo Campaign to Share Images of Water Pollution
Tea Leaf Nation: Chinese Activist Web Users Take Aim at Water Pollution, and Censors Strike Back