CHINA : Shanghai’s dead pig story stretches back upstream

English: Huangpu river in Shanghai, view from ...
English: Huangpu river in Shanghai, view from The Oriental Pearl Tower Polski: Rzeka Huangpu w Szanghaju, widok z Perły Orientu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Behind the thousands of dead pigs floating down the Huangpu River, there lies a murky tale of waterway pollution and river management failure. The Guardian reports

 

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.

This small town south-west of Shanghai is near the Xietanggang water intake for the Songjiang Water Pumping Station and one of the four main sources of water for Shanghai.

“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.

The pigs are believed to have floated downstream from Shaoxing, in the neighbouring province of Zhejiang.

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…

12.12.09 discharge 1
12.12.09 discharge 1 (Photo credit: IdahoCARE)

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: With 6,000 Dead Pigs in River, Troubling Questions on Food Safety

Pigriver

BEIJING — Pork buns and tap water may be off the menu in Shanghai, China’s biggest city with more than 23 million people, after thousands of dead pigs were found floating in the Huangpu River, which flows through the city, and in upstream tributaries. About 6,000 animals have been fished out so far in an operation that began last Friday, according to the Shanghai authorities, with more still surfacing, though at a slower pace. From International Herald Tribune

The questions around the pig die-off — what caused it, why the animals were thrown into the river and by whom — are deeply disturbing Shanghai residents as well as others in China, and the Ministry of Agriculture has announced an investigation. City water authorities say the drinking water sourced in the Huangpu is safe, though one water sample showed traces of porcine circovirus, Xinhua, the state news agency reported, adding it can spread among pigs but not humans.

China is regularly plagued by food safety and environmental scandals, but even so, the appearance of thousands of large, decomposing pigs in the river that feeds the country’s most sophisticated metropolis stands out.

There’s the question of why the pigs have ended up in the river. A report by the Oriental Morning Post, from Jiaxing city upstream in Zhejiang province, suggested there are apparently high death rates in the pig industry there; between 60 and 100 pigs die daily in Zhulin village alone, the dfdaily.com reported, in an article carried by the People’s Daily Web site. It wasn’t clear why.

Dead pigs are put into a pit in Zhulin village near Jiaxing in Zhejiang province. Workers removing the dead animals, left by breeders on roadsides, said they are carrying away more than 200 pigs a day.China/ReutersDead pigs are put into a pit in Zhulin village near Jiaxing in Zhejiang province. Workers removing the dead animals, left by breeders on roadsides, said they are carrying away more than 200 pigs a day.

The village, in Xinfeng county, has pens for dead pigs but they’re full, the report said, quoting pig farmers and disposers in the village. Suspicions are growing that a recent crackdown by the police on the sale of pigs that have died from disease but are being illegally sold into the human food chain may be contributing to the problem, as people dump the animals in the river instead.

“In the second half of last year, the Jiaxing police investigated 12 cases across provinces of illegal buying, selling and slaughtering of ‘disease dead pigs,’ worth over a million renminbi,” the report said.

Pork, known here as “big meat,” is a favorite food in China, but pig farmers say they struggle to make enough money from the business. Farmers have in the past sold dead, diseased pigs “to make a little money,” the report quoted a farmer identified as Hong Wei as saying.

A 100-kilogram, or about 220-pound, pig sells for only about 600 renminbi, according to the article, while feed costs alone total at least 150 renminbi, farmers said. Local pig dealers have proposed that local authorities pay a small fee to farmers to recover dead pigs and help curb the illegal trade, suggesting 10 renminbi, the report said.

CHINA Pollution? 6,000 Dead Pigs in River Not Affecting Shanghai’s Water, Officials Insist

Shanghai Skyline
Shanghai Skyline (Photo credit: Keith Marshall)

Shanghai authorities are trying to assure people of China’s largest city that their drinking water is safe despite finding nearly 6,000 dead pigs in the river that provides water to the city’s taps. ABC News reports

Shanghai residents were further unnerved when health officials determined that the pigs were infected with a disease known as porcine circovirus, but health officials insisted that it does not affect humans.

Pigriver

The pig bodies were found in the Huangpu River about 40 miles north of Shanghai’s 23 million residents, raising fears that they are drinking a “pork broth,” as some referred to it in a moment of black humor.

The government has been playing down the incident and reassured citizens that Shanghai tap water samples passed government test and it is safe to drink.

Shanghai authorities used tags on the pigs’ ears to trace them to the city of Jiaxing in Zhejiang province, upstream from Shanghai. Jiaxing is the main supplier of pork to China’s east coast, with 4.5 million pigs delivered every year.

Jiaxing city government officials denied responsibility for the dead pigs.

“The tags on the pigs’ ears only indicate the pigs were born here,” argued Jiang Hao, the vice director of Jiaxing’s Animal Husbandry Bureau. “It doesn’t mean they were raised here. No signs have been found of any epidemic among animals in Jiaxing, and local hogs’ mortality rate remains normal.”

The government is blaming some farmers in Jiaxing for a lack of environmental awareness, and for carelessly disposing of their dead pigs. The government says it will make every effort to investigate the case and punish anyone who dumped pig carcasses in the river.

Last year, the Jiaxing government started a major crackdown on black market sales of pork from pigs that had died of disease. One farmer told Shanghai’s Xinmin News Net that some farmers now just toss the tainted meat into the river since they have nowhere to sell it.

“Some dead pigs weighing more than 25 kilos were still being sold and making it onto people’s dinner tables,” the farmer said. “But since the government arrested some tainted meat dealers, nobody comes to buy the stuff anymore. So it’s normal that there are so many dead pigs in the river,” he said.

Pollution Update : Good news – Two provinces partner up in river protection

English: Qiandao Lake. Zhejiang, China.
Image via Wikipedia

Anhui and Zhejiang have launched an ecological compensation initiative that is the firstwater protection program jointly begun by these provinces. China Daily reports on some good news initiative.

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The neighboring provinces launched a trial project on Sunday that monitors the water quality of theXin’an River, which originates in Huangshan, Anhui, and runs into Zhejiang’s Qiandao Lake, themain source of drinking water for Zhejiang province and a strategic reserve reservoir for theYangtze River Delta.

This is the first time such a program has been put into operation, according to Lie Weiping, headof the bureau for protection of the Xin’an River.

“If the water offered by upper Anhui has a quality higher than the basic standard, Zhejiang shouldcompensate Anhui, and Anhui should pay compensation to Zhejiang if the water quality is lowerthan the standard,” Lie said.

Huangshan and other places in Anhui hesitated to accept new industries in order to protect theenvironment along the Xin’an River, paying a heavy price in terms of slow development withdelayed industrialization and urbanization.

In recent years, Huangshan denied operating permits to more than 40 companies whose investments totaled over 4 billion yuan ($632 million), and it permanently closed polluting factoriesengaged in paper-making and cement production, according to a report released last year by acommittee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory body.

Nearly 30 percent of China’s territory is made up of basins of big rivers, which traverse many administrative regions.

Huangshan Mayor Song Guoquan said the mutual compensation mechanism will not only ensurewater quality for the lower regions, but also ease the funding scarcity of the upper province andalleviate the contradiction between economic and social development and environmental protection.

The compensation funds were set up by Anhui and Zhejiang provinces and the central government.

With the 50 million yuan startup fund provided by the central government, the local government ofHuangshan will treat industrial pollution at its sources, improve efforts to clean major water coursesand protect the environment in major villages and towns, said Lu Haining, vice-director of the Huangshan environmental protection bureau.

By 2015, Huangshan will invest more than 40 billion yuan in 521 projects to clean the Xin’an Riverbasin, Lu said.

The Huangshan environmental protection official added that the compensation mechanism haslimitations. “The compensation should not only be directed at pollution treatment costs. It shouldalso cover the cost of the developmental opportunities lost (by the upper province) in the process ofprotecting the environment,” said Lu. “That’s ecological compensation in its true sense.”