November 29, 2005: China Water Pollution

Water Quality in Major Rivers in China (The Lancet. (2010). 375:9720, 1110-19.)

Water Quality in Major Rivers in China (The Lancet. (2010). 375:9720, 1110-19.)

November 29, 2005: New York Times headline—China Speeds Efforts to Raise Water Quality. “China is spending more than $630 million on improving water supplies to cities dependent on the contaminated Songhua River, according to the Asian Development Bank, as a toxic slick continued Tuesday to threaten communities on what is an important waterway in northern China.

Water drawn from the river to supply almost four million people in Harbin was passed fit to drink Tuesday, almost a week after pumping was suspended because of the chemical spill.

However, authorities in Heilongjiang province cut off supplies to communities downriver from Harbin in the path of the 80 kilometer, or 50 mile, long slick of benzene compounds, according to the state media.

In Russia, agencies managing emergency services were preparing to deal with the spill, which is expected to reach Russian territory near Khabarovsk early next week. They were making plans to cut off supplies to some communities.

An explosion at a chemical plant in Jilin province on November 13 spewed an estimated 100 tons of benzene compounds into the Songhua. The spill has become a major international and domestic embarrassment for China.

The threat to the health of millions of people and clumsy attempts to suppress news of the contamination have again drawn attention to the heavy price China is paying for three decades of headlong economic development.”

Commentary: The headline is more than a bit optimistic. China has a very long way to go to convince its own citizens and the international community that it is serious about solving the dire water quality problems in that country.

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