China: Ravaged Rivers

China:Ravaged Rivers

CHINA: Ravaged Rivers

by Jane Spencer, Wall Street Journal
August 22nd, 2007

Last summer, Chinese government investigators crawled through a hole in the concrete wall that surrounds the Fuan Textiles mill in southern China and launched a surprise inspection of the plant. What they found caused alarm at dozens of American retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Lands' End Inc. and Nike Inc., that use the company's fabric in their clothes.

Villagers had complained that the factory, majority owned by Hong Kong-based Fountain Set Holdings Ltd., had turned their river water dark red. Authorities discovered a pipe buried underneath the factory floor that was dumping roughly 22,000 tons of water contaminated from its dyeing operations each day into a nearby river, according to local environmental-protection officials.

In the more than two decades since international companies began turning to Chinese factories to churn out the cheap T-shirts, jeans and sneakers that people around the world wear daily, China's air, land and water have paid a heavy price. China has faced harsh criticism in recent months over the safety of exports ranging from tainted toothpaste to toxic toys. But environmental activists and the Chinese government are increasingly pointing to the flip side: the role multinational companies play in China's growing pollution by demanding ever-lower prices for Chinese products.

Prices on fabric and clothing imported to the U.S. have fallen 25% since 1995, partly due to the downward pricing pressure brought by discount retail chains. One way China's factories have historically kept costs down is by dumping waste water directly into rivers. Treating contaminated water costs upwards of about 13 cents a metric ton, so large factories can save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by sending waste water directly to rivers in violation of China's water-pollution laws.

"Prices in the U.S. are artificially low," says Andy Xie, former chief economist for Morgan Stanley Asia, who now works independently. "You're not paying the costs of pollution, and that is why China is an environmental catastrophe."

end of excerpt

Polluted China Rivers Threaten Sixth of Population
Updated Mon Aug 27, 2007 3:32pm AEST




A Chinese workers clears away rubbish from a polluted river in Beijing. (File photo) (AFP: Teh Eng Koon)


Polluters along two of China's main rivers have defied over a decade of clean-up efforts, leaving much of the water unfit to touch, let alone drink, and a risk to a sixth of the population, state media says.

Half the check points along the Huai River and its tributaries in central and eastern China showed pollution of "Grade 5" or worse; the top of the dial in key toxins, meaning that the water was unfit for human contact and may not be fit even for irrigation.

Fourteen years of measures had reined in some of the worst pollution along the Huai and Liao Rivers but factory waste remains far too high, chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) environment and resources protection committee Mao Rubai said in a report.

The rivers posed a "threat to the water safety of one sixth of the country's 1.3 billion population", the China Daily said.

The pollution on the Huai threatened the massive South-North Water Transfer Project to draw water from the Yangtze River through the Huai basin to the country's parched north, Mr Mao said.

"Large volumes of untreated domestic effluent and industrial waste-water are dumped directly into the river," Mr Mao said of one of the Huai's worst polluted tributaries.

"To judge from the inspection, the quality of water used for the South-North Water Transfer Project is threatened by pollution, and this must attract our vigilance."

end of excerpt.
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Water pollution, air pollution, acid rain, water scarcity, SO2 pollution, desertification, deforestation, drought... All products of China's enormous and hastened economic boom. At the beginning China's attitude was progress at any cost, but now they are paying dearly for the masssive amounts of Co2 So2, Nitrates, and other pollutants their "progress" is spewing into our world's air and their waterways which is killing more than 90% of their rivers and lakes and treating our atmosphere like an open sewer.

I have written a few times about China because to me it is a country that represents the epitome of a moral challenge as does the United States. In its fervor to be number one it abandoned its moral soul just as the United States has done in its quest to be the ultimate war machine. Now, China can sit and blame the United States for that (and some of the blame in regards to "cheap outsourcing" may well fall on the U.S.,) but the truth is that moral fortitude is something you either have or you don't.

The picture in China regarding its environment looks bleak if government does not step up now to quickly mitigate the damage they are causing to the ecosystems of this world and the economic losses of crops and land that make their progress over pollution agenda a losing proposition.

And above all, the greatest loss will be the water. With glaciers in this region melting at a faster pace than first predicted by scientists and at a faster pace than their worst scenarios, they will need sources of water to fall back on. Polluted rivers and lakes in concert with dams that are bringing on pollution and environmental degradation along with an encroaching desert and other conditions brought on by their insatiable addiction to coal, are not conditions conducive to either responsible government or moral fortitude.

At this stage it is going to take more than some efficiency lightbulbs to solve this massive problem. It is going to take China seeing that progress does not mean you have to give up sustainability and it is going to take this country allowing their people to speak freely about the environment because in China it is now a matter of life and death that they do.

Comments

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