A blog entry from sustainablog.org about water pollution in China’s coastal city of Yancheng.
Toxic Chemical Spill in Chinese City Leaves Residents without Water
Authorities from China’s coastal city of Yancheng, in the province of Jiangsu, shut off water last Friday and restricted the supply for most of the weekend following citizen reports of foul smelling water. An estimated one million of the city’s 1.5 million residents were left without water due to what government identified as the presence of two variants of carbolic acid – carcinogen hydroxybenzene and phenol — in the city’s water supply.
The local government identified Biaoxin Chemical Company as the party responsible for the tainted water, which illegally discharged the toxic chemicals from its facility, said state media Xinhua news agency. Xinhua also reported that the plant has been shut down and its top executives arrested. Officials have not provided any additional information; and state media China Daily reports that no one has come forward with symptoms of poisoning have not been independently confirmed.
Another article that points out that a significant portion of Chinese carbon emissions is contributed by the production of exports to the West.
Exports Increasing Chinese Emissions
CHINA’S ONGOING REFUSAL to agree binding emission reduction targets is supported by new research that says half of the country’s recent emissions increase is due to the production of exports – most for western countries.
The fact that China recently overtook the US as the world’s largest emitter is increasingly used to excuse western nations from taking a lead on climate change. A new report from a collaborative research team, just the latest in a string of similar claims, says that the increase is largely down to international demand for Chinese produce.
China’s CO2 emissions increased 45% between 2002 and 2005; only 7% was due to domestic household consumption. 50% is due to production of exports (chemicals, metals, and electronics) of which 60% heads to the west. Last year the Stockholm Environment Institute estimated that the US is responsible for 9% of all Chinese emissions and the EU responsible for 6%.
China’s environment problems serious: Minister
SHANGHAI (AFP) — China’s environmental problems remain serious with local governments not putting enough pressure on businesses to control pollution, the nation’s environment protection minister has said.
Efforts to toughen environment laws have not done enough to fix the widespread problems for China’s air, lakes and rivers, Zhang Lijun said on Tuesday, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
"The general situation of environmental pollution does not allow us to be optimistic," Zhang was quoted telling a national meeting on pollution control in Shanghai.
Zhang’s ministry replaced the environmental protection agency last year with greater powers, but enforcement still depends largely on local officials.
Water, air pollution in China still serious
SHANGHAI – Lakes, rivers and the air in many places in China are still polluted, some seriously, in spite of continuous efforts to control pollution, a Chinese environmental official said Tuesday.
An elderly fisherman looks out from his boat on Taihu lake, China’s third-largest lake, where a pollution-linked algae bloom has reappeared in Huzhou, in eastern China’s Zhejiang province. [Agencies]
Zhang Lijun, deputy minister of environmental protection, said environmental protection departments across the country should press enterprises harder on pollution control.
"The general situation of environmental pollution does not allow us to be optimistic," Zhang told a national meeting on pollution control in Shanghai.
This is an old piece of Xinhua news, but it’s worth reviewing as a data point.
China’s environmental NGOs’ influence increases
China’s grassroot non-governmental organizations (NGO) dedicated to environment protection have more influence now with the doubling of their number in the past three years, according to a report.
China has 508 grassroot-level environment NGOs as of October this year, increasing by nearly 300 from 2005, the All-China Environment Federation said in an environment report here, which it took eight months to finish beginning January this year.
And they are having an effect on the everyday lives of Chinese people.
Yi Yimin, a press officer with the Beijing-based Friends of Nature, an environment NGO, told Xinhua her organization has successfully influenced the public and the government policy by advocating environment-friendly practice in the past few years.
Here is a clip of China-related news
NRDC Document Bank: NRDC’s Recommendations for Strengthening US-China Climate Change and Energy Engagement
The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China are both key players in international efforts to address global warming and global energy security. Indeed, they are by far the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the world, together accounting for over 40% of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use. Efforts by these two players over the coming decades to cut greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption will play a large role in determining the ultimate outcome of efforts to combat global warming. They are, of course, not alone in this effort, but they are the critical actors, jointly holding the key to either sustainability or catastrophe. Building upon NRDC’s experience in China and the international global warming negotiations, this paper recommends nine key steps for the incoming Obama administration, US Congress, and leaders in China to strengthen US-China Climate Change and Energy Engagement.
Algae problem on Taihu is tackled by algae eaters. Solution versus prevention from Cleaner Greener China blog:
During the summer of 2007, 2 of China’s largest lakes (Tai Lake in Jiangsu province and Chao Lake in Yunnan province) caked over in a green algae.
It was an issue that sparked a new level of environmental awareness, and while much of the media focus was on surrounding chemical factories, the reasons behind the blooms were largely a combination of drought and chemical (N) fertilizer runoff (as covered recently in last week’s post Reduced Fertilizer Equals Reduced Water Pollution. It’s That Simple).
During that time, as part of the clean up of Chao lake, millions of algae eating fish were released into the water to do what they do best (see picture above)… and now, they have reproduced the program at Tai Lake by releasing 10 million carp
An open disucssion about the possible man-made cause for the earthquake may shed light on predicting future earthquake given China’s energy development trajectory. Here is a discussion about the link between dam and earthquake in China from EastSouthWestNorth:
The several hundred million tons of water piled behind the Zipingpu Dam put just the wrong stresses on the adjacent Beichuan fault, geophysical hazards researcher Christian Klose of Columbia University said at a session last month at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, California. In his talk, Klose coyly explained–without ever mentioning a dam–how the added water changed the stresses on the fault. According to his calculations, the added weight both eased the squeeze on the fault, weakening it, and increased the stress tending to rupture the fault. The effect was 25 times that of a year’s worth of natural stress loading from tectonic motions, Klose said. When the fault did finally rupture, it moved just the way the reservoir loading had encouraged it to, he noted.
Klose’s listeners were intrigued but far from convinced. They wanted to hear more details about changing water levels and local, lower-level seismicity. Fan, who was not at the meeting, provides some of those details, all of which favor a link between the Zipingpu Reservoir and the earthquake. Judging by the history of known reservoir-triggered quakes, the rapid filling of Zipingpu as well as its considerable depth would have favored triggering, he says. The delay between filling and the great quake would have given time for reservoir water to penetrate deep into the crust, where it can weaken a fault. And the greatest danger of triggering comes not at the time of maximum filling, he argues, but when the water level is falling. "As we now know, a week before the May 12 earthquake, the water level fell more rapidly than ever before," says Fan.
A paper in last month’s issue of the Chinese journal Geology and Seismology arrives at a similar conclusion. Zipingpu’s impoundment "clearly affected local seismicity," says lead author Lei Xinglin, a geophysicist at the China Earthquake Administration in Beijing and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, Japan. Lei emphasizes that a firm conclusion is premature, but he sees penetration of reservoir water into the fault and the reservoir decline between December 2007 and May 2008 as "major factors associated with the nucleation of the great Sichuan earthquake."
Fan also does not see the Zipingpu-Wenchuan connection as proven yet, but he’s seen enough to urge caution. "We should readjust our existing plans and take a more cautious attitude when planning projects," he says. "But I am pessimistic that many of these large-scale constructions will be canceled, because of the strong economic interests that benefit hydropower developers and local governments."
Building a stronger case for restraint, researchers in and out of China say, will require access to even more detailed data. "Time-variation evidence for seismicity of small earthquakes near and surrounding the reservoir, as well as for the water levels and loading of the reservoir, are needed," says geophysicist Wen Xue-ze of the Sichuan Seismological Bureau in Chengdu. Fan believes that researchers in the Chinese Academy of Sciences have preliminary results from such studies, "but they are reluctant to share them."
Linking China’s energy and health challenges…
China Coal Linked to Birth Defects
But while the studies show rising concern, it is unclear whether the government will respond. In January, the Land and Resources Ministry said China plans to keep producing more coal, with output rising to 2.9 billion tons by next year and 3.3 billion tons in 2015, according to Reuters.
"China has always been very explicit about the fact that it doesn’t see turning away from a coal-based economy until at least 2050," said Economy. "The question is, what are they going to do in terms of taking measures to protect the people?"
Growing public awareness of the health problems has raised the risks of social protests and instability.
"This is something that the government is going to be paying much more attention to. They have to," Economy said.