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Devastating water pollution now rampant across China


Water pollution

(NaturalNews) The growth of the Chinese economy, while slipping a bit in the first quarter of 2014, is still quadruple that of the United States, as the Asian giant continues its industrial rise.

But China's dramatic growth in production has come at a cost: Its major cities are choked with fumes and exhaust, soil is quickly becoming contaminated, and water supplies in the heaviest production centers are being irreversibly tainted.

In recent days, the government of Lanzhou Province informed its 3.6 million residents that drinking water would be carcinogenic for a 24-hour period; it seems that the chemical benzene, which is used in the manufacture of plastics, was the immediate cause, but that wasn't the worst revelation to come from the crisis. A few days later, it was revealed that the benzene had been introduced into the environment as a result of oil pipeline explosions years earlier -- in 1987 and 2002.

At the time, the pipelines, which were owned by state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, were repaired -- but not before about 34 tons of soil was contaminated -- and then left in place, thus allowing the benzene to seep into an underground water duct whose contents eventually make their way to kitchen and bathroom sinks.

Government policies led to so much pollution

"It's a horrifying revelation, but not an uncommon or surprising one. Indeed, even though air pollution gets the headlines, it's water pollution that will stand as the enduring, hazardous legacy of China's industrial renaissance," reports Adam Minter for Bloomberg News.

The examples are as rampant as they are revolting. For instance, in 2013, 16,000 dead pigs were seen floating down Shanghai's Huangpu River; in 2005, a chemical explosion in the Jilin Province resulted in the release of 100 tons or more of toxic chemicals, which included benzene, into the Songhua River, creating a 50-mile "spill."

There are numerous other smaller incidents, Minter writes, and most of them never get officially reported. Nevertheless, they are visible all across rural China where, "in my experience, every town shares two features: an elaborate Communist Party headquarters, and a poisoned canal."

It's not as if Beijing does not realize it has a pollution problem. In recent years, the government has released national-level data that portrays a legacy of environmental destruction. In 2012, Minter writes, the Ministry of Water Resources admitted that some 40 percent of the country's rivers were seriously polluted in 2011, and that 20 percent of them were "too toxic even to come into contact with," Shanghai Daily reported.

Minter reported further:

Similarly, in 2012, China's Ministry of Land and Resources released a report showing that 40.3 percent of 4,727 monitored wells in 200 Chinese cities had "bad" water quality, and another 14.7 percent had "extremely bad" quality. Meanwhile, in Shanghai, a 2013 water census contained the depressing news that only 3.4 percent of the city's water was unpolluted and suitable for drinking or aquaculture.

Playing environmental catch-up

How did it get this bad? Like the shockingly horrible air pollution, the Asian giant's water pollution problem is a predictable result of a government agenda that prioritized economic growth and, as such, lifted restrictions on local governments and state-owned enterprises in order to achieve it.

Freed from concerns about long-term health and environmental damage as a result of their production modes, job creators in China planned haphazardly, to say the least. For instance, in Lanzhou, the China National Petroleum Corporation seems to have built pipelines in close proximity to water supplies, and then did not take reasonable environmental clean-up measures once the pipelines ruptured.

"In a more accountable system of government, a local official or two -- theoretically -- would have pushed back. Under China's system, those officials knew that they had everything to gain by not interfering with powerful state-owned oil monopolies," wrote Minter.

What's more evident is that, unlike air pollution, where you can simply shut down a factory and clear things up, water pollution is much more long-term. Polluting aquifers means that that source of water, for the foreseeable future, is pretty much useless for consumption.

China's communist government may be playing catch-up far too late to clean up the worst environmental damage.

Sources:

http://www.heraldonline.com

http://www.reuters.com

http://www.naturalnews.com

http://science.naturalnews.com

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