By Elizabeth Batt: Liuzhou – China’s disregard for the environment can be described as ignorant at best, arrogant at worst. The country’s latest disaster involves dumping 20 tons of carcinogenic cadmium into the Longjiang River.
China’s Longjiang river in the country’s Guangxi region was rendered toxic a couple of weeks ago, after 20 tons of cadmium were dumped into its waters. Since then, attempts to neutralize the toxicity of the river have been ongoing, and managers of seven heavy metal producing companies, located on the river’s edge, have been detained, accused of illegally dumping toxic waste.
It isn’t the first time this has happened. In 2005, more than 6 tons of cadmium were discharged into a tributary of the Pearl River in Guangdong Province, reports the UK’s Daily Telegraph. The act “prompted a massive pollution scare and cut off water supplies for over 100,000 people,” said the newspaper.
In comparison, this latest environmental misdeed is far worse. On Monday, the Xinhua News Agency reported the dumped
cadmium, had polluted a 100 kilometer (60-mile) stretch of the Longjiang River at a level more than five times the official limit of 0.005 milligrams per liter. The spill affected millions of people and threatened 200 miles of the river, a main water source that serves 3.7 million residents of the city of Liuzhou.
By Monday afternoon, 4,650 tonnes of activated carbon, quick lime and aluminum chloride had been added to the water by city workers and on Feb. 01, Xinhua reported a sharp decline of cadmium levels in the river “from 80 times above the national standard to 25 times”.
Authorities assured residents that the most polluted section, 100 kilometers away from Liuzhou city, is sufficiently far enough away to be of little concern to residents. Yet city workers continued to pour tons of neutralisers into the river and two fish farms in the region, were banned today from selling their fish.
Although China has instituted environmental policies across the board, recognizing the need to conserve its environment, these policies are proving difficult to enforce at the local level. With 1.3 billion people (as of 2011), China is the world’s most populous country; its explosive growth and industrialization, has seen the country’s environmental issues reach crisis mode.
How is China’s environment suffering?
Take a look at this interactive map from 2007. It shows that many Chinese cities have the worst air quality in the world. Levels of Nitrogen Dioxide for example, which can cause respiratory issues, have jumped 50 percent since 1996.
Parts of Northern China have become desert land, estimated to expand to an area about the size of New Jersey every five years. More than 600 million people live under water stress and 30 percent of the country’s crops and buildings in the south east are being damaged by acid rain.
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in a 2008 report, said China’s environmental problems have:
“Grown tenfold since 1978, and […along with…] its focus on economic development at breakneck speed, has led to widespread environmental degradation.”
Furthermore the report adds, “China surpassed the United States as the largest global emitter of greenhouse gases by volume”. China’s roads boast sixteen million cars and its government they said, received six hundred thousand environment-related complaints in 2006.
Citing a July 2008 research brief from the U.S.-based Woodrow Wilson Center, which said, “the lack of coordination and poor delineation of public duties between pollution and protection of natural resources results in conflicts of interest between government bodies, especially at the local level,” the CFR labeled the country’s national environmental agency, an ineffective watchdog.
Although China’s government talks of implementing environmental change, and does indeed take action when an environmental crime occurs, its environmental agency chases its tail. The real tragedy occurs through global ignorance when citizens of other countries fail to acknowledge that China’s problems will one day be their own. Particularly as he world’s ecosystems, do not coexist solely within one country’s established borders.
Oceans are connected by currents. As seen in the estimated five to 20 million tons of debris sucked into the ocean during Japan’s massive 2011 tsunami, which is expected to hit U.S. shores in the winter or spring of 2013. Yes, it will take a couple of years, but it will arrive, and by 2014, it is expected to hit the West Coast of Oregon and Washington.
Through clouds and wind, all manner of particles travel globally. “Slowly”, said Spiegel Online in 2007, “politicians and scientists are recognizing the path of destruction caused by China’s industrial revolution.” Chemical signatures from China, they add, “have come from coal-fired Chinese power plants, Chinese smelters and chemical factories, as well as from the tailpipes of countless Chinese diesel-powered cars and trucks.”
These chemical signatures have been located in clouds floating above Europe and on the West Coast of the United States.
China’s economy may be booming, but the world will continue to pay the price for its actions, both environmentally and financially. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in just 2011, the United States imported goods from China to the tune of 366,493.3 million U.S. dollars. These goods range from pet food to toothpaste, tires to jewelry, seafood to toys and ironically, solar water heaters and panels.
International governments need to demand China applies and enforces higher standards for environmental protection. And the next time you pickup an item labeled “Made in China”, take a moment to consider, how the product was made.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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