A Polluted but “Livable” Town- Xinhua

A town in builds up both its economy and pollution levels, but at the same time it manages to win one award after another, claiming itself as the most “livable” town. Translated from Xinhua, via sina.com:

Dawang Township of Guangrao County (ÂπøÈ•∂Âéø§ßÁéãÈïá) in Shandong Province has won dozens of awards, from “the most livable new town” to “living environment prototype award.” But the nasty smell of the town is unmistakable while driving through the area. And locals are used to being awakened by the polluted air in the middle of the night.

Dozens of smoke stacks stand high amidst smoggy air coughing out billows of pollution into the air. Yang River (阳河), which runs through the town, is filled with richly colorful and oily streaks of water.

Zhinu River (Áªá•≥Ê≤≥), another grossly polluted waterway, used to be where crabs, shrimps and turtles lived and climbed to people’s houses from. The water tasted sweet. Not any more. Fish and shrimp are gone, so are the birds. The water smells like rotten tree roots if cooked with rice. A secret examination by the provincial environmental agency found the river to be one of the most polluted in the province.

Also up has been the cancer rates. Among the 50 deaths in Gaobuzhi Village (高卜纸村) since 1999, nearly 30 died from cancer. There are six cancer patients alive.

Industries not only dump waste water barely treated, they also suck up the underground water for production. Huatai Paper (华泰纸业), a major factory there, has dug more than 10 deep wells. The town used to have 30 to 40-meter wells in 1980s, now you need to drill 200-300 meters to see water.

While farmers dispute the many environmental awards the town has collected over the years, the township spokesman justifies the inevitability of pollution in the course of development. “You reporters don’t look at our town through ‘colored lenses,’ you should look more at our achievements and awards,” the spokesman said to the reporter.

Strangely enough, local environmental agencies failed to prick the bubble of the town’s “green” image. Many major polluters got away with starting a plant without an environmental permit. Some supposed clean-up efforts turned into a sham, such as the paper factory digging a couple of underground ditches to dump waste water into lower reaches of the river. [Full Text in Chinese]


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