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ALARMING SITUATION: CHINESE GROUNDWATER POLLUTION

Currently, sixty percent of Chinese population gets drinking water from groundwater, often untreated in rural areas. Data show that 360 million people in rural regions drink water that does not meet the minimum conditions, and 20% of groundwater sources for municipal water supplies do not respect standards.

The majority of families in villages in Henan province, central China, relies on well water. At the same time, it is also a common fact that the presence of polluting manufactures built near the villages is one of the main threats of water pollution.

Studies have shown the impact in this region of the Shengguang Group, the world’s biggest manufacturer of drips and syringes built just several hundred metres away from the villages. This factory is a key element for the Henan’s economy, selling medical supplies throughout China and to 40 countries in Europe and South-East Asia. On the other hand, the huge quantities of waste water from the manufacturing process are the main cause of severe groundwater pollution.

Today, groundwater pollution is one of the most urgent issues affecting the Chinese environment and safety.

For this reason, Chinese law strongly prohibits the dumping of effluent underground. The Water Pollution Prevention Law forbids the dispersal of harmful waste water or other pollutants in the ground.

According to the law, local environmental authorities are able to impose fines in case of pollution and if the offending company fails to make remediation, they can designate a third party to carry out the work at the offending company’s expense. However, the majority of cases result just in a fine.

The improper disposal of industrial and domestic effluent are the main causes of groundwater pollution, but also other sources of pollution such as agricultural pesticides, fertilizer and mining waste play a central role.

Data also show that Shengguang is not the only company that is polluting groundwater. In 2011 media reported that in the Hebei county of Yuanshi several chemical plants had been found to be dumping water containing chemical contaminants, causing groundwater pollution and forcing ten thousand locals to buy drinking water.

The framework of Chinese groundwater is complex and vague. The China Geological Survey has published a map of groundwater pollution but this only marks an indication of the quality of groundwater across large regions. In northern China pollution of groundwater is both common and worsening. The south-west and north-west of the country, less affected by human activity, records lower levels of water pollution.

In this context, experts alarmingly warn about the strong impact of water pollution on human health.

Shenqiu county, in the Henan municipality of Zhoukou, is famous around China due to the high incidence of cancer in the villages. Although the region lies on the Shaying River, a major tributary of the Huai, residents rely on groundwater for their daily use. For years the Shaying has been the main focus of efforts to clean up the Huai, with many smaller polluting factories forced to close or move. Despite these efforts, the total amount of pollution has not been sufficiently brought under control.

 

The gLAWcal Team

Thursday, 5 June 2014

(Source: Chinadialogue)