Voices from China

Weibo Watch: Issue 7

(September 26, 2011) This week on Weibo Watch: rock desertification is turning a huge swath of southwest China barren; villagers in Guangdong fight illegal, environmentally damaging mining; citizens in Zhejiang, protesting an energy company’s carcinogenic pollution, face official denial and police detention; restaurants stop selling shark fin; and an NGO walks along the highly polluted Xiang River.

September 15: A delegate of the Sichuan Provincial Political Consultative Conference, Fan Jianchuang @樊建川 lamented: “A rock desert is even worse than an ordinary desert. It is a cancer of the earth, often resulting in no grasses growing whatsoever. In 18 years, from 1987 to 2005, 40,000 square kilometers of new rock desert has developed in Southwest China – an area larger than Hainan Island. And the desertified area is expanding quickly, overwhelming a county a year. Cutting trees, burning vegetation on mountains, reclaiming wasteland for farming, and planting food-crops on steep hills has caused soil erosion, with the layer of soil diminishing year after year. Rocks appear; the earth is dying. Is this only because of population pressure? What has gone wrong in these decades?”「石漠」比沙漠还凶恶,地球的癌症,严重到寸草不生。1987年至2005年的18年间,西南石漠化面积新增4万平方公里,超过海南岛总面积。目前,仍以一年吞没一个县的速度发展。伐木、烧山、开荒、陡坡种粮、水土流失、土层变薄、再变薄、石头裸露、大地死亡。仅仅是人口压力吗?这几十年怎么了??????

Farmers plant in the cracks between the rocks.

Some netizens asked, what is rock desertification? Hundreds of internet users responded with their comments:

@三水妈妈 shared her experience: “I went to Guizhou province in 2008, 2009, and 2010, and witnessed the consequences of rock desertification. Some farmers plant crops in rock cracks. It is sad to see that a place as small as a washbowl was planted with two corn plants.” 08、09、10连续三年上贵州,亲眼看到石漠化的情况,有的地方农民在漫山的石头缝里种庄稼,一块脸盆大小的土也要种上两颗玉米,心里很不好受。

@-注注- believed that “Population pressure is a superficial explanation and an excuse for the real cause.” 人口压力,不过是表象和借口。

@Agaguk commented: “Environmental problems are not caused by the environment.” 環境問題不是環境的問題

@-积木积木- said: “Urban areas are expanding endlessly. Rivers are stopped by dams. What impact do these activities have on the earth? The earth does not have a chance to rest.” 毫无休止地扩张城市、绝不留情地拦水筑坝,这些大的举措给地球带来了什么呐?她哪里还有喘息的空间啊!

@尹力_Yehudi was critical: “China’s forest cover is 20.36%, while the average world forest cover is 22.0% and Japan’s is 67%. However, China exports wood to Japan every year…” 中国森林覆盖率20.36%(世界平均水平是22.0%),日本森林覆盖率67% 但是中国每年还得出口木材到日本……

@月光灵魂 commented ironically: “The government likes commercial crops, which we call evil plants. We are already seeing the consequences. And they call this sustainable development for human beings?” 政府喜欢强大的经济作物,我们称之为魔鬼植物的东西,最后的结果就是这样,这个叫做以人为本的可持续发展

@革丽包包 complained: “… Southwest China is the destination of choice for migrating environmentally unfriendly and poisonous industries. Which river’s upstream section is not near chemical factories or poisonous metal mining zones?…” ……现在却是工业转移,非环保的,有毒的产业的转移目的地,哪个河流上游没有化工工厂呢,有毒金属开发地呢……

@大猫医生 said: “Bad government acts negatively.” 狗屁政府无作为。

@草花A commented: “Neither government nor villagers pay attention to soil protection. Farmers go out to earn money. The vicious circle continues.” 农村没人去重视土地保护了。政府不重视、农民种地又挣不到钱都外出打工。长此以往,恶性循环 。

@剑之歌 suggested: “We have not found a way to reward people for ecological development. These places with fragile environments should not be bent on achieving high GDP.” 生态补偿机制没有建立,生态薄弱的地方不能再去追求“鸡的屁”了

@公众环境研究中心马军added: “Rock desertification is one of the most important causes of the water shortage in Southwest China.” 石漠化是西南缺水恶化的重要原因之一

The China Internet Information Center published an article years ago reminding readers that “Scientists warn that rock desertification has become the no. 1 ecological disaster in southwest China and steps must be urgently taken to control it.”

On the same day, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs released a Flash map of more than three hundred district or municipal level cities, in both Chinese and English, called the China Pollution Map. It encourages citizens to report clues and track pollutants in their own cities, as well as to submit suggestions for the map. Please click here for more information. The news was posted by @沈喃喃:经过3个月努力,“中国污染地图”三百多个地市级城市的中英文版flash地图终于上线了!大家可以去http://t.cn/h9FxzS,看看自己所在城市有哪些污染源,再给地图找找茬!@公众环境研究中心马军

Villagers gather, and conflict breaks out in front of Jingke Energy Company.

September 14 -18: Guangzhou Daily reported on September 14 that deposits of rare earths have been illegally mined in Chaozhou and Shantou regions in Guangdong province since 2008. Illegal miners burning wood and using ammonium sulfate caused serious environmental damage, which impacted local people’s lives. Government officials neglected their duties, or even engaged in the illegal mining themselves. Hundreds of angry villagers gathered on August 15, causing damage in several illegal mining sites. Read further information here.

On the evening of September 15, in Zhejiang province, at least 500 villagers gathered in front of the Jingke Energy Company to protest the factory’s polluting discharges. Then a conflict broke out. Three days later, the Shanghai-based Morning Post newspaper said on its Weibo account @新闻晨报: “According to Zhejiang Online and Metro Express, villagers from Hongxiao village in Haining municipality report that pollution discharge from the Jingke Energy company has given 31 people cancer and 6 people leukemia. Two reporters from Zhejiang TV were beaten up by the company staff while doing an interview.

A promise not to use shark fin.

The villager who posted details about the Jingke pollution online was detained. The public health department “confirmed” that there were only four villagers with cancer in 2010 and two in 2011. Several others were detained on the charge of suspected theft and intentional destruction of property.” 浙江村民举报企业排污30余人患癌 记者采访被打 发帖网民被拘】综合浙江在线和都市快报,海宁村民举报晶科能源公司排污致31人癌症,6人白血病,浙江台记者采访被打。海宁市通报,发帖者红晓村村民孙某被治安拘留,经核实红晓村去年癌症发病4人,今年2人,抓获部分涉嫌盗窃和故意毁坏财物犯罪嫌疑人。

September 19: Though the total number is still small, more and more enterprises are being pushed to adopt corporate social responsibility. A restaurant in Hangzhou @杭州黄龙饭店 released a poster promising not to provide shark fin products any more. This action received 5582 re-posts and 1433 comments by September 21. The public praised the restaurant and encouraged other restaurants to participate in this movement.

Xiangtan Color Chemical Ltd. Co. has turned this stretch of the Xiang pink, apparently by releasing colorant. Volunteers are monitoring the situation.

September 20:
Since September 4, an investigation team organized by the NGO Green Hunan has conducted walks along the Xiang River. Their reports of what they found along the river are disturbing – poisons, chemical factories, polluted streams, a cancer-stricken village, wetlands suffering severe drought. See their media reports and a complete list of photos on their Weibo account @绿色潇湘. Here are some photos uploaded by the investigation team.

Photos taken along the Xiang River.

More photos from the Xiang River.

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