Voices from China

Weibo Watch: Issue No. 2

(August 30, 2011) In the latest installment of Weibo Watch, China’s netizens debate a Shanghai government plan to relocate 76 chemical factories to undisclosed locations in the next year; an opinion piece looks at why Environmental Protection Departments in China have become ‘Dissolving Departments;’ meanwhile a Yunnan newspaper reports that 5,000 tons of chromium waste has been dumped in several sites.

August 16: Lu Xuan, @陆务观, a lawyer and board member of Grassroots Community – an NGO that works with communities in and around Shanghai – commented on a report from the Shanghai Morning Post: “The Shanghai government plans to relocate 76 chemical factories this year, as do the governments of the Pearl River Delta, in order to “upgrade industry” away from the highly polluting industries located there now. But where will they move to? Will they move to central China and western China, including my hometown in Anhui province? Will they move to the countryside? Is it necessary to sacrifice the environment in the central and western regions of the country, as well as rural areas, for these eastern industry polluters? For example, what about the peasants and their children in Qujing city, which is already heavily polluted by chromium waste, and Jiahe county which is polluted by lead. Aren’t their lives worth something?” 今年上海计划76家化工企业要搬走;珠三角也一样,腾笼换鸟,高污染企业要搬走。但是搬到哪里去呢?——搬到中西部(包括我的家乡安徽)、搬到农村。承接东部产业转移,就要牺牲中西部、农村的环境吗?像这次铬渣污染的曲靖县(市)、铅污染的嘉禾县的农民及他们的孩子都不是生命?@热爱家园环保项目

Netizen @独钓少翁 added criticisms about the proposed relocation: “Unless the sources of pollution are controlled, all environmental protection is bosh. Unless recycling and factory waste disposal happens, controlling the source of pollution is a big joke. It is impossible to clean up all pollutants. But have the government and the company tried their best?” 不从控制污染源开始,一切的环保都是扯蛋。如果不注重企业排放的处理回收,那么,污染源控制,都永远是一个天大的笑话。完全消除污染不可能,但是国家努力了没?企业自身努力了没?

Another netizen, whose work relates to law, @合肥法律人_以法为业, forwarded this comment: “It is true that relocation of polluting industries in central and western regions is happening. Anhui province treasures this industry relocation as an opportunity. These polluting companies are all around us. Lawyer Lu, you are the pride of Anhui. Please beat the drum for your hometown fellows.” 转发此微博:是的,转移到中西部,安徽就把承接产业转移当作宝,我身边都是这些污染企业!陆律师,你是安徽的骄傲,要为家乡父老摇旗呐喊啊!

@雪舞斜阳 shared her/his experience: “In my first job, I discovered that chemical factories in America are neat, clean, and operate under good standards, which are enviable. Our workers, on the other hand, need to be monitored everyday to ensure they wear dust prevention masks, with a penalty to their bonuses if they don’t. Without the monitoring, they don’t even try to protect themselves.” 第一份职业时,看到美国的化工厂整洁优美,规划优良,羡慕的很。回头看看我们的工人,连使用防尘口罩都要天天监督,并恶狠狠得跟奖金挂钩才行。没有监督,连自我保护都不愿意……

August 16 and 15: Several netizens posted their comments on Weibo about an August 15 report in the Yangze River Daily that said there are more than 20 sand-mining spots along a 70 kilometer segment of the Tongtian River.

Another message posted by a number of Internet users on August 16 dealt with a report from the Hebei newspaper, Chutian Metropolitan Daily. That report claimed that one hundred small-scale dams have either been built or are under construction in the Shennongjia Forestry District, causing the lower reaches of at least four rivers to dry up. Apparently, some local government officials are shareholders in the dams. Only 29 of the dams had their Environmental Impact Assessments approved.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Impact Assessment process is facing huge challenges. On August 15, the official Weibo account of EIAfans.com, @环评爱好者网官, posted an article released by Caixin’s China Reform on July 29, called “Impractical EIA System 被架空的环评制度.” It attracted a lot of feedback from professional environmentalists. In the article, the author Zhu Qian – the director of the Environmental Law Research Center at the Law School of Suzhou University – concluded: “The current EIA process plays an important role in preventing environmental and ecological pollution and destruction. However, the low cost to the construction industry of breaking the law, the lack of respect accorded EIA organizations, as well as the limited public access to EIA information and a token public participation system, all combine to handicap the EIA process.” 现行的环境影响评价(下称环评)制度,对于预防环境污染和生态破坏有着极其重要的作用。但是,建设单位违法成本过低,环评机构诚信的缺失,环评信息公开的困境,以及公众参与的“符号化”,是环评制度始终没有跨过去的几道门槛。

If environmental protection officials and departments were professional and independent, the Environmental Protection Bureau wouldn’t be called the “Environment Pollution Protection Bureau” by skeptical netizens. Ma Jun, @公众环境研究中心马军, forwarded an opinion piece written by Ye Jianming dated August 15: “Why Environmental Protection Departments Become Dissolving Departments”[i] http://t.cn/aEpiR3> For example, when a river is heavily polluted, the EPD announces that there have been “few impacts on drinking water”; after a chemical factory suffers an explosion and residents’ throats are hurting, the local EPD insists that the polluting emissions “had no impact on air quality”. 转发评论——环保部门何以成为“化解部门”?http://t.cn/aEpiR3 比如某条河污染严重,环保部门会说“对饮用水影响不大”;某地化工厂爆炸,明明空气污染得把周围的人的喉咙都熏坏了,当地环保局却还说“未影响空气质量”。

The Yunnan Information Newspaper's report on chromium waste.

August 12: Southern Metropolitan Daily’s official Weibo account, @南都广州, released the following message: “Water Pollution in Yunnan, Can We Alone Keep Our Integrity? Two pages of Yunnan’s Information Newspaper reported today that 5,000 tons of chromium waste had been dumped in a reservoir leading to 2,000 times the allowable limit of Hexavalent chromium that is permitted in reservoir water.[ii] Next, 300,000 cubic meters of this polluted water was piped into the Nanpan River, the Pearl River’s headwater. The e-version of this report could not be found. We, who are living at the delta of the Pearl River, are drinking the same water that you who are living in the source area are drinking. While this pollution event is far away from Guangzhou, it is closely related to us. What can we do?”【云南水污染 我们能独善其身吗?】今日云南信息报2个版报道云南5000吨铬渣倒入水库,致使水库六价铬超标2000倍。之后又将30万立方受污染水,铺设管道排入珠江源头南盘江。这个新闻的电子版被撤根本看不到。 君住珠江头,我住珠江尾,共饮一江水。这个事件离我们广州很远但又很近,我们能做点什么?


[i] Editors note: In effect, the Environmental Protection Departments “dissolve” when faced with an environmental infraction. They don’t solve pollution problems but rather defend themselves and the polluting companies by misrepresenting what is obvious to the public.

[ii] According to the latest report from New Century Weekly, a sister publication of Caixin, 5222.38 tons of chromium waste was dumped in three towns in Qujing City, Yunnan –  Ciying Town, Sanbao Town, and Yuezhou Town. The chromium waste was dumped in several sites, including in the woods, along roadsides and along rivers, on dried river beds, and alongside or in local reservoirs. The water in the rivers and reservoirs will eventually flow into the Nanpan River, one of the rivers at the headwater of the Pearl River. Over the past century, more than 400 million tons of Hexavalent chromium waste has been produced in the Nanpan River basin. Another 300 million tons of Hexavalent chromium waste produced in other parts of China has been left by unknown sources and needs to be disposed of.

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