Pollution, Piranha Plague Southern Chinese Rivers

China Daily reported on Tuesday that, according to government figures, nearly ten billion tons of industrial wastewater and domestic sewage were poured directly into Guangdong’s rivers last year:

More than 9.5 billion tons of the sewage, or 75.8 percent of the total, was directly discharged into local rivers, the bulletin said.

The major river systems in Guangdong are the Pearl River Basin, the Hanjiang River Valley, and rivers in the eastern and western parts of the province. According to the year-end report, the water quality of rivers in eastern Guangdong is the worst, with 30 percent of them heavily polluted.

Because of the serious pollution, the water quality of major rivers within Guangdong province is poor, threatening the health of local residents who live along the province’s riverbanks, the bulletin said.

In neighbouring Guangxi province, another threat has surfaced. Local authorities have begun offering a 1,000 yuan ($150) reward for anyone who manages to catch a piranha in the Liu River, where the illegally released fish have been sighted. From The Guardian’s Tania Branigan:

Zhang Kaibo, from Liuzhou in the south-west Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, said he needed stitches in his hand [see a picture at Beijing Cream] after three of the fish attacked him as he washed his dog in the river. He managed to grab one, but it died shortly after he took it home.

“Later on, my mum cut it into pieces and we planned to eat it. [But] some local officials came to my home and collected it to study,” he said.

[…] Zhou Quan, a spokesman for Liuzhou government, assured the state-run China Daily newspaper: “Residents in this city have no need to worry about piranhas in the Liu river.” He added that the fish could not kill humans and could not live in water colder than 15C – giving them little hope of surviving and reproducing.

China Real Time’s report was more sanguine about the piranha’s chances of thriving in the river, especially given the new financial incentive for locals to introduce more of them. From Sandra Hu:

According to local media outlets, this is not the first time piranhas have been spotted in the Liu River. The ecosystem the Liu River is said to mimic that of the Amazon’s, thus making it a suitable environment for these piranhas.

[…] The Liuzhou government’s reward for captured piranhas has become a hot topic on Sina Corp.’s Weibo. Some predict it will backfire. One Weibo user wrote: “Is this real? Someone will immediately import (these fish) by air and resell it to the government. This is such a profitable business idea!”

[…] A quick search on China’s eBay-like ecommerce site Taobao turns up 20 stores that distribute piranhas. One storefront sells them at the bargain price of 20 yuan ($3.15) each — and even offers a deal of “buy 10 get one free.”