China’s Pearl River smells, but mayor vows to swim – Simon Montlake

From the Christian Science Monitor (link):

The mayor of China's top manufacturing city is hosting a "swimathon" this summer in the local Pearl River. Cleanup efforts to reverse years of have been so successful, claims mayor Guang Zhangming, that the Pearl is once again safe to swim. To prove it, he plans to don a suit and join the 10,000 other swimmers whom he hopes will take the plunge.

But after looking into the filmy water and smelling its foul wafts, other officials are said to be begging off. Three vice-mayors told a local newspaper that they couldn't swim.

After decades of rapid industrial growth, China has reached a moment akin to America in the 1970s: Pollution has become too obvious to ignore, sprouting a new environmental consciousness and official efforts to start cleaning up.

See also "Reporters on the Job" (link) about the writing of this story.

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