The study, led by researchers at the University of Washington, said air pollution posed the fourth largest threat to the health of Chinese people, behind dietary risks, high blood pressure and smoking.
Air pollution is a fact of life in cities such as Beijing, where many people wear breathing masks when travelling outdoors to guard against “PM2.5 particles” – tiny pollutants that can go deep into the lungs and cause cancer, bronchitis and asthma.
- POLLUTION: Why is UK only now waking up to this public health crisis? (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Exposure to Air Pollution after a Heart Attack (pollutionfree.wordpress.com)
- Canada one-ups the US by launching new startup visa on an important day (qz.com)
- National › Air pollution turns skies gray over Kanto region (japantoday.com)
- Air Pollution Linked to 1.2M Premature Deaths in China (latinospost.com)
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From NY Times
This month, a hundred years after the completion of the Panama Canal, China is expected to finish the first phase of its gigantic South-North Water Transfer Project, known in Chinese as Nanshui beidiao gongcheng — literally, “to divert southern water north.” The phrase evokes the suggestion, attributed to Mao, that “since the south has a great deal of water, and the north very little, we should borrow some of it.”
In realizing Mao’s dream of moving huge quantities of water from areas of plenty to those of want, Beijing is building a modern marvel, this century’s equivalent of the Panama Canal. But whereas the canal inaugurated a century of faith in the ability of human ingenuity to reshape the natural world, the South-North Water Transfer Project is a testament to the limits of engineering solutions to problems of basic environmental scarcity.
China is one of the most water-rich countries in the world. But as Mao observed, its water resources are unevenly distributed and overwhelmingly concentrated in the south and far west. Water scarcity has always been a problem for northern China, but shortages have reached crisis levels as a result of rapid economic development.
For most of the 1990s, northern China’s major river, the Yellow, failed to reach the sea, and the water tables around Beijing and other major northern cities have dropped so low that existing wells cannot tap them. In response, the government has tried to promote water conservation and limit water use. But these measures have had little impact, and there simply isn’t enough water to satisfy growing demands for drinking water, irrigation, energy production and other uses.
Rather than face the political challenge of allocating water resources among these competing interests, Beijing has placed its faith in monumental feats of engineering to slake the north’s growing thirst. The South-North Water Transfer eventually aims to pipe 45 cubic kilometers of water annually northward along three routes in eastern, central and western China. All three pose enormous technical challenges: The eastern and central routes will be channeled under the Yellow River, while the western route entails pumping water over part of the Himalayan mountain range.
The estimated cost of $65 billion is almost certainly too low, and doesn’t include social and ecological impacts. Construction has already displaced hundreds of thousands, and issues the like possible increases in transmission of water-borne diseases have not been properly studied. But Beijing’s calculus is political: It is easier to increase the quantity of water resources, at whatever cost, rather than allocate a limited supply between competing interests.
For an authoritarian regime with weak institutions of governance, this reluctance is understandable. But it also puts China’s economic and ecological future at risk, because Beijing cannot keep increasing supplies of water indefinitely. Already, the southern regions slated to pump water northward are facing water shortages themselves. In the long run, warming in the Himalayas is likely to reduce the flow of China’s major rivers, increasing water scarcity throughout the country.
Further feats of engineering can help China manage some of these impacts, but will not solve the underlying problem of water scarcity. Doing so requires contentious reallocations of water, including by dramatically increasing the cost of water for farmers — something the Communist Party is loath to do.
Ultimately, China needs significant political reform to meet the challenge of water scarcity. In order to make difficult decisions about who gets how much water, the country needs robust, transparent and participatory decision-making mechanisms. Moreover, in order to make policy ideas like water-rights reform work, the legal system and the rule of law must be strengthened. Finally, Beijing needs to stop relying on technology to avoid making hard choices about scarce resources. The United States and the rest of the world need to push the Chinese government to make its development more sustainable through political reform, lest China’s economy and social stability be endangered.
The architects of the Panama Canal overcame the inconvenient separation of two oceans by a narrow strip of land with a gigantic feat of engineering. But solving the problem of water scarcity in China is not so simple. Beijing will find that simply adjusting the supply of water, or of any other critical resource, is not enough: At some point it has to decide who gets how much. And that is a process that, without dramatic reform, is likely to leave the party high and dry.
Scott Moore is Giorgio Ruffolo Doctoral Research Fellow in Sustainability Science at the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and a doctoral candidate at Oxford University, where he studies Chinese environmental politics.
- CHINA POLLUTION : Beijing targets capital’s suburban smog (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- China to spend $16 billion to tackle Beijing pollution crisis (reuters.com)
- China’s Utility Giants Vulnerable to Water Scarcity, Report Says (e360.yale.edu)
- China’s Utility Giants Vulnerable to Water Scarcity, Report Says (cleantechies.com)
- China’s coal power sapping up water supply (upi.com)
- 28,000 Chinese waterways dry up amid pollution tidal wave (rt.com)
China is trying to put the environment – and has the political clout to do it – but will it be, like the case of the finless dolphin in previous post too little too late? Let’s be positive hope not… China going green!? China Daily reports
According to a plan released on Thursday, the government will make efforts to improve sewage disposal, garbage treatment and air quality, as well as curb illegal construction.
Illegal buildings and land use are major problems in the suburbs, and the campaign will focuson structures built on collectively owned land in old towns and high-end communities, saidWang Wei, deputy director of the city’s urban planning commission.
The government will spend a month curbing growth of illegal construction or land use and thenmake a list of illegal buildings.
From May to July next year, the city will gradually demolish those buildings, Wang said.
Wang Anshun, mayor of Beijing, said government departments and State-owned enterprisesshould take a leading role in demolishing illegal buildings owned by their branches.
To improve water quality from 2013 to 2015, the capital will set up 47 recycled-water plants andupgrade 20 sewage disposal plants, Beijing Water Authority said in a statement.
About 1,290 km of pipeline will be laid or upgraded for sewage disposal, the statement said.
According to the three-year plan released, Beijing will also build five garbage incinerationplants by the end of 2015 to ensure more than 70 percent of the city’s waste can be destroyedby burning.
The city already has two incineration plants. It can incinerate 16,900 metric tons a day, and thenumber will increase to 24,000 tons.
The sewage treatment, garbage incineration and forestry development will cost 100 billion yuan($16.09 billion), said Mayor Wang Anshun.
He said the huge investment called for the reform of the market, which means that thegovernment should lift restrictions and let the private sector participate in the investment.
Fang Li, deputy director of Beijing’s environmental protection bureau, said the government willcontinue to take measures to cut emissions for air quality improvement this year.
The city will continue to control vehicle emissions using the policy that restricts private carsfrom being driven one day a week, based on the final digit of the car license plate, he said onThursday.
Meanwhile, it may consider launching the policy in particular areas and periods to control thenumber of cars on road.
When the air quality is poor, the city will set up an emergency headquarters to resolve theproblem, according to a government statement.
- China to spend $19b over 3 years to tackle Beijing pollution crisis (straitstimes.com)
- Beijing to control urban expansion: mayor (wantchinatimes.com)
- Airpocalypse Now: Beijingers start facing up to lethal smog (metronews.ca)
The residents of Maogang looked on in despair as first dozens, then hundreds, and ultimately 10,164 dead pigs were pulled out of the Huangpu River.
“We don’t dare drink the river water,” said one villager. The township government has had to bring in a week’s worth of drinking water.
It’s a new problem, but the causes – waterway pollution and failures to manage rivers across administrative boundaries and government departments – are old complaints.
“Dead pigs have always ended up in Shanghai. This time they just went there by river, instead of by truck,” said one Shaoxing pig farmer, pointing at a porcine corpse.
Illegal selling of dead meat
It was only two years ago that pigs started to be dumped in the river. “In the past you could sell them, so they didn’t end up in the river.” The pig farmers all referred back to a court case two years ago, which shocked the city.
Everyone in Shaoxing knows about the case, which saw 17 people tried. In November 2012, the three ringleaders were given life sentences.
It was a typical tale for a pig-farming village. Dong Guoquan and two others ran an illegal butcherhouse, buying in dead pigs. “They got them cheap, one yuan or so per jin.” One farmer explained that a young pig which died of illness would weigh less than 50 jin, an older one no more than 100 [one jin is half a kilogram].
But that didn’t do business any harm. The city’s intermediate court found that in only two years Dong and the others had bought and butchered 77,000 pigs and sold the meat on for 8.65 million yuan. Most of them came from the townships of Fengqiao, where the village is, and Xinfeng.
“Once they’d been arrested nobody wanted to risk buying up dead pigs openly,” 57-year old villager Guo Yue (not his real name) told Southern Weekend. His village of Zhulin, in Xinfeng, is famous for supplying pigs to Hong Kong.
But that meant more pigs were getting thrown in the river. Environmental protection staff in the Songjiang district of Shanghai said they’d taken a trip up river all the way to a concrete plant in Pinghu, Shanghai. Traces of dead pigs were visible all along the route.
A worker on a dredger boat in Caoqiao, Pinghu, said that on March 17, when they had already been working for a week, his boat was still pulling out over 20 pig carcasses a day.
“We do it every year at this time,” said a Zhulin villager responsible for the work. The fishermen all change jobs for a while and start catching pigs.
A Zhejiang environmental protection report in 2011 found that 7.7 million pigs were being farmed in Shaoxing. On average 2% to 4% will die, which means between 150,000 and 300,000 corpses need to be disposed of.
“If dumped, they cause bacterial and viral pollution, as well as 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes of chemical oxygen demand,” the report said.
But, still, there are no provisions for proper disposal in place. Many officials – including Chen Yunhua, village secretary in Zhulin; Yuan Liqiang, deputy neighbourhood head in Caoqiao; and Dong Yue, deputy neighbourhood head in Yuantong – said that it was only in 2011, that Shaoxing saw any large scale construction of disposal pits.
But it’s been nowhere near enough. Zhulin is a major pig farming village, but Chen Yunhua explained that there are only seven pits, with an eighth being built.
Others pointed out that one pit can handle three to five thousand corpses. But according to the Shaoxing Daily, 18,400 pigs died in the village in just the first two months of the year. Capacity is overstretched. “The rest just get dumped in the fields or the river,” the villagers say.
Officials try to limit pig farming
A Shaoxing government report admitted that: “the dumping of pigs which have died of illness happens to varying degrees in all districts of Shaoxing.”
“The dead pigs weren’t a big problem in the past, it was pollution from the farming,” said Wang Yubing, deputy at the Pinghu Environmental Protection Bureau. Pinghu borders the Shanghai district of Jinshan and is upriver of the city, and pollution from pig farms further upriver in Nanhu and Haiyan damage water quality.
“The biggest pollution problem for Shaoxing is poultry and livestock farming,” said Xu Luzhong, an inspector with the Zhejiang environmental authorities, when he visited the city. Pig excrement, slurry and the corpses dumped all over mean that the beautiful water town is giving off a bit of a stink.
“There are 130,000 farmers raising over 7 million pigs. Each pig excretes as much as 6 or 7 adult humans,” said Yu Hongwei, deputy of the city’s environmental bureau.
“The government are trying to limit numbers, persuading us to change jobs,” said Chen Yunhua. To cut pig numbers, in 2011 the city set up zones where pig farming was banned or limited, including in Zhulin: “By 2015, pig numbers will be reduced from 7.5 million to about 2 million.” And no pigs may be farmed within 200 metres of minor waterways, and within 100 metres of more important ones, Chen said.
This was intended to improve worsening water quality. A source with the Shaoxing environmental authorities said that despite the measures the city accounted for two of the locations named and shamed when the provincial bureau checked water quality province-wide. Both the urban centre and the wider city had water of sub-Class 5, the worst level of water quality.
And this pollution ends up in the Huangpu River. National People’s Congress representative and professor at East China Normal University Chen Zhenlou said that agricultural chemicals from upstream threaten water quality.
Shanghai relies on water from outside its boundaries, a major headache for its government. It has never managed to do anything effective about upstream pollution.
“The waterways in Shaoxing are just so complex it’s a struggle to monitor them,” complained Ren Weiliang, deputy of the Pinghu water authorities. There are 3,458 waterways in Pinghu alone, stretching for 2,256 kilometres.
And pig farmers are usually very small operations, which makes them harder to regulate. Yuan Liqiang says that most of the farmers in his jurisdiction are households keeping pigs in their yards. There’s so many of them that “sometimes it really is hard to keep control.”
The way waterways are managed is also being re-thought. Ren Weiliang explained that in the past the port, urban, water and environmental authorities were all involved.
“Sometimes they see waste floating downstream but can’t do anything,” said Ren. Pinghu is considering changing the way that works. And to solve problems with cross-boundary coordination the Shaoxing water authorities have set up mechanisms in Xinfeng, Fengqiao and Caoqiao, with boundary rivers being divided up into stretches assigned to different towns.
But those efforts don’t connect up with Shanghai. Zheng Zheng, director of Fudan University Basin Pollution Control Research Center, said that it is currently easy for blind spots to arise between upper and lower stretches of rivers. Shanghai is powerless to regulate its rivers upstream. “We can’t enforce the law, or issue punishments,” Zheng said.
“When pollution crosses boundaries, people try and pass the buck,” Zheng continued. In the end nobody knows who should pay. “A tracing mechanism would solve it.” He went on to explain this would mean 24-hour monitoring, so “as soon as you notice something coming from upstream, it’s the upstream government’s problem – as for which specific body or authority, they can figure that out themselves.”
But water quality on the upper Huangpu – a long-standing source of drinking water – has long been badly damaged. “Water quality on other tributaries was Class 5 or worse as far back as 2004,” recalled one official who participated in a meeting on preventing pollution in important watersheds that year.
Maogang is located by an important source of water, but is still powerless. On January 10 this year, two months before the pig scandal, a leak from a boat carrying chemical containers forced the nearby pumping station to halt work.
To avoid these risks, Shanghai has been forced to look for alternative ways to quench its thirst. “From the sources of the Huangpu to building the Qingcaosha Reservoir at the mouth of the Yangtze, Shanghai is looking for safer water,” said Chen Zhenlou. But the Yangtze isn’t any safer, and its water quality it also under threat.
So Shanghai is even looking at desalinisation. The latest idea is to take water from Qiandao Lake in Zhejiang – “more than 2 billion cubic metres a year.”
• Originally published in Southern Weekend. With contributions from Southern Weekend intern Wang Yue.
- China loves pork too much… (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Life in Zhejiang’s ‘cancer villages’ (wantchinatimes.com)
- GRAPHIC PHOTOS: Over 12,500 Dead Pigs Retrieved From China’s Waters (huffingtonpost.com)
- CHINA: With 6,000 Dead Pigs in River, Troubling Questions on Food Safety (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- China’s ‘Hogwash’ Getting Worse As Floating Dead Pigs In Shanghai River Rise To 3300, Pig Virus Found (infiniteunknown.net)
- Shanghai Authorities Insist Water Is Safe, Despite Floating Pig Carcasses (theepochtimes.com)
The thousands of pig carcasses dumped in a river are a symptom of the rush to satisfy the demand for meat. The Guardian reports
Over the last fortnight, more than 16,000 dead pigs have been recovered from tributaries of the Huangpu, the river that arcs through Shanghai. Mottled and swollen, adult hogs and piglets were first spotted upstream in Henglaojing creek, their bellies forming pearlescent domes among the river debris. Finding a dead hog in this creek isn’t an anomaly. Farmers have been using the waterways as a dumping ground for deceased stock for decades, residents say. It is the numbers that the locals find shocking.
What worries Shanghai residents is that the waterway supplies more than 20% of the city’s tap water. Early tests revealed the pigs carry porcine circovirus, which isn’t infectious to humans, and the water was ruled safe. Though there has been no official explanation for their appearance, tags in the pigs’ ears trace them to Jiaxing in the neighbouring Zhejiang province. Jiaxing is an area where the pork industry flourishes and where 70,000 pigs died this year because of extreme weather conditions and “crude raising techniques”, according to state media.
Citizens have responded with outrage to the Henglaojing incident. “That thousands of dead pigs were dumped in the Huangpu secretly isn’t news”, said Li Mingsheng, a well-known writer, on his weibo (microblog) account. “It’s also not news that 20 million Shanghai residents have drunk dead pig broth for half a month. What’s news is that the Shanghai water bureau claims the Huangpu’s water meets health standards.” Others responded more humorously. In one joke spread through weibo, a Beijing resident boasts that he just has to open the window to have free cigarettes. A Shanghai resident retorts: “That’s nothing, we turn on our taps and have pork chop soup.”
My reaction is more despondent. I visited Zhejiang late last year to report on the booming factory-farm industry, interviewing a young man whose local eco system has been decimated by the arrival of a factory farm. A dead pig in a river is gripping, sensationalist, macabre. But it hints at a deeper crisis: the impact the burgeoning meat industry in the developing world is having on the planet.
As the world’s population expands, incomes rise – and we eat more meat. In 1999, annual meat production worldwide was around 218m tonnes. By 2030 it is projected to be 376m, according to the World Health Organisation. To accommodate the extra 2 billion people expected to be alive by 2050, we need to eat a quarter of the meat we do now.
Tell that to the Chinese, who are particularly fond of pork. Mao’s favourite dish was hongshao rou, a fatty braised pork belly. The country produces and consumes half the world’s pork, around 50m tonnes in 2011. The average person eats four times what they ate in 1980, but a third less than the average Briton.
To satiate rising meaty appetites, animal husbandry is in a state of rapid change. Backyard pigpens, the method by which Chinese people raised hogs for centuries, are being replaced with Cafos (concentrated feeding animal operations), copycats of the American versions, which the Chinese government is subsidising heavily. A Cafo is likely to be where the hogs in the Henglaojing waters came from. Jiaxing accounts for a quarter of the pigs raised in Zhejiang province, around 4.5m each year.
A downside of the Cafo system is that it’s inefficient. The amount of grain – usually soy – that it takes to feed so many animals renders the energy ratio from crop to pork at 4:1 (beef is 7:1). They are also breeding grounds for viruses – such as porcine circovirus as seen in the Henglaojing pigs, but also foot-and-mouth disease and hog cholera. More worrying for humans is that the use of antibiotics in Cafos is linked to the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The proper disposal of diseased animals should be a global concern.
From the “hogwash” incident, the Chinese government should take stock. It must move swiftly to regulate Cafos, particularly the smaller holdings that have grown haphazardly and without sufficient checks. The farmers involved in this incident made the unwise decision to dump the carcasses rather than burn them (which is more expensive), but why hadn’t the local government stopped similar behaviour before? At least the hogs weren’t sold. In October, a court in Jiaxing heard a case in which 77,000 tonnes of dead pigs had been illegally processed and sold as meat to locals. The defendants made 8.6m yuan (£900,000) from the deals.
Chinese friends and acquaintances are initially bemused by my vegetarianism. Despite the country’s rich Buddhist tradition, they think it’s a quaint, foreign quirk. Something hardwired into the nation’s psyche is the association of meat with progress. I find it difficult to explain to people who had one of the world’s deadliest famines in living memory that I think people today eat too much meat for the good of the planet and themselves. When I was a child, I ate it every day.
- CHINA Pollution? 6,000 Dead Pigs in River Not Affecting Shanghai’s Water, Officials Insist (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- China loves pork too much | Nicola Davison (oddonion.com)
- CHINA: With 6,000 Dead Pigs in River, Troubling Questions on Food Safety (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Number of dead pigs in Shanghai river approaches 15,000 (rawstory.com)
- GRAPHIC PHOTOS: Over 12,500 Dead Pigs Retrieved From China’s Waters (huffingtonpost.com)
- Shanghai Retrieves 6600 Dead Pigs as Farm Confesses to Dumping – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Shanghai sees swine flow easing (rappler.com)