Chinese Journalists Honored with Environmental Awards

The China Environmental Press Awards have been handed out to several Chinese journalists, including a citizen journalist who launched a campaign to challenge local officials to swim in polluted waters. From the Guardian:

Against a backdrop of sometimes strong harassment from local officials, China’s environmental reporters, civil society and citizen journalists continue to document public outrage about pollution, and the influence of Chinese social media is becoming increasingly significant.

Wu Zhu, an environmental volunteer from coastal Zhejiang province, picked up the award for best citizen journalist after helping to create and promote a call for environmental protection officials to swim in local waterways.

The campaign quickly escalated into a nationwide media story with one entrepreneur offering more than £20,000 to his city’s environmental protection chief to take a 20-minute dip in his polluted local river. The local official declined.

[…] Two runners-up awards were given out to Pan Qi, an entertainment reporter who rose to national fame after probing officials over a controversial tree-planting programme in her home city of Qingdao, coastal China, and Chen Yuqian, a farmer from a small village near Hangzhou city, which suffers severe pollution from paper and electroplating factories. Chen’s daughter set up a weibo account (a microblogging platform in China similar to Twitter) in his name, speaking about his life and work. They both continued reporting about environmental problems despite harassment from local officials. [Source]

The award for best investigation of the year was given to Gao Shengke and Wang Kai of Caijing for a piece on contaminated land in Chinese cities being used for residential developments. Their piece is running as a three-part series in The Guardian. From Part 1:

This plot of land was previously the site of a factory owned by the Ministry of Railways that made anti-corrosive railway sleepers. The plant was in operation for more than 30 years; many kinds of organic pollutants continuously seeped into the topsoil, deeper soil layers, and into the groundwater. Some seven or eight years ago, the factory was relocated and this plot of ground was left unused. In January 2011, the city administration decided to convert the land into a development for affordable housing and it was taken over by the Residential Construction Service Centre for Civil Servants to build low-cost housing for civil servants from all ministries.

After the Civil Servants Residential Centre took over the plot, a number of specialists carried out an initial land survey. In May 2011, the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences released a public environmental impact assessment report which made no mention of any soil pollution problem. There was also no mention of the historical use of the site or the original environment.

However, Caijing magazine got hold of another similar survey report by the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, which showed that pollutants in the soil seriously exceeded approved levels, especially semi-volatile organic pollutants such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons. There were many kinds of hydrocarbons, most of them relatively strong carcinogens and mutagens.

[…] Exactly how widespread the problem is in China is unclear, but a senior industry specialist pointed out that there must be tens of thousands of plots of polluted land nationwide; of these pesticide plants occupy quite a high proportion but only a miniscule number of these have been treated or are undergoing treatment. [Source]

The awards are jointly issued by chinadialogue, The Guardian and Sina. Read more about them via chinadialogue.

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