Air pollution in China’s largest cities, as measured by the concentration of fine particulates that pose the greatest health risk, was three-times worse in the first half of the year than levels advised by the World Health Organization. Continue reading
BEIJING, China – An explosion Tuesday at a Chinese plant that produces the toxic chemical paraxylene has added fuel to a growing movement opposing such plants, on the same day that a state-run newspaper prominently urged the public to accept the industry as safe. Continue reading
A Chinese farmer who dared a local environment official to swim in his province’s polluted rivers has been badly beaten in an attack his family says was linked to his activism.
Chen Zuqian, from the township of Banqiao in Zhejiang province, was one of a number of farmers and business people who publicly offered money to government officials to swim in rivers to highlight the sorry state of China’s waterways. Continue reading
The Chinese regime for the first time admitted the existence of so-called “cancer villages”—areas near factories and polluted waterways where cancer rates have increased to startlingly high levels.
The Sina Weibo of the state-run Global Times on Wednesday published news and a map of the villages that are especially cancer-stricken. Posting in Chinese, the Times, a mouthpiece of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, cited the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection. The blog Tea Leaf Nation brought attention to the post. Continue reading
Public agitation within Beijing’s smogosphere—including campaigns on Chinese social media and recent aggressive reporting from state-affiliated newspapers—has gradually prompted the government to release more data about air quality. It’s not the same as solving the problem, but the relative openness is an encouraging sign. Continue reading
China’s dependence on burning coal to meet its soaring energy demands has grown even more, with a new report saying that the country now accounts for nearly half of global coal consumption, meaning that the dense air pollution lingering over Chinese cities will likely only get worse.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Tuesday that China’s consumption of coal grew 9 percent in 2011, continuing an upward trend for the 12th consecutive year. In 2011, China’s coal use grew by some 325 million tons, representing 87 percent of the total increase that year. Continue reading
The stifling pollution currently plaguing much of northeastern China has reached levels so high it is beyond the measurements used in the U.S. to chart air quality.
“What Beijing is experiencing — and even worse in the provinces — is off the charts from anything we experience in the United States, and likely more than anything we’ve experienced in our country’s history,” said John Walke, the director of the Climate & Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group. Continue reading
BEIJING — About 10 percent of China’s farmland contains excessive levels of heavy metals due to contaminated water and poisonous waste seeping into the soil, state media said Monday, citing a government survey.
Pollution from heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cancer-causing cadmium is often blamed for poisoning entire villages and crop-growing land in China as factory bosses flout environmental laws and farmers use toxic fertilisers.
The report in the Southern Metropolis Daily said the survey organised by the environmental protection ministry found about 10 percent of farmland had “striking problems of heavy metal levels exceeding (official) limits”.
“Heavy metal pollution incidents have occurred repeatedly in recent years,” Wan Bentai, chief engineer at the ministry, was quoted saying. Continue reading
AN AMERICAN diplomat posed as a Korean tourist to investigate a notorious tiger breeding centre in southern China, where he saw animals whipped, made to perform ”marriage processions” and reportedly sold to be used in traditional medicines.
As a result of the undercover visit to Xiongsen Tiger and Bear farm, the US government was notified of doubts about China’s conservation efforts, according to a diplomatic cable recently released by WikiLeaks.
The investigation was inspired by a flurry of foreign media reports in 2007 alleging the farm offered tiger meat in its restaurant and tiger bone wine in a shop. Continue reading
By Dan Martin (AFP) , Feb 9, 2011-
BEIJING — China called Wednesday for higher rice output to offset damage to its wheat crop in the drought-stricken north and pledged $1 billion in spending to battle a problem the UN warned could be “very serious”.
The drought affecting large swathes of northern China is the worst in six decades in many areas and has left key grain-growing regions with no real rainfall in more than three months.
At a meeting on Wednesday chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, the government decided to allocate funds to pay rice-growers higher prices for their grain in a bid to spur production, said a statement by the State Council, or Cabinet. Continue reading
Radio Free Asia, 2010-09-30 -
Local Tibetans have challenged Chinese work crews trying to build a dam near a mountain considered sacred by area residents, according to Tibetan sources.
The mountain, called Lhachen Naglha Dzambha, rises in Driru [in Chinese, Biru] county in the Nagchu Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), a native of the region now living in exile said.
“The Gyalmo Ngulchu [Salween] river runs through the foothills of this sacred mountain,” the source said.
“Sometime in August this year, a large number of Chinese workers arrived in the area. Local Tibetans were told they were building a dam.”
Representatives from each village in the county then gathered at the site to protest the construction, another Tibetan living in exile said, citing sources in the region.
Alex Frangos, via http://blogs.wsj.com/, Sep. 27, 2010 -
To get a sense of how China’s air quality compares with the rest of the world, there’s a new map of global air-particulate pollution from Canadian scientists using National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite data. The verdict: It doesn’t look good. Continue reading
Reporters Without Borders, Sep. 20, 2010 -
Reporters Without Borders hails investigative journalist Xie Chaoping’s release on bail in Weinan (in Shaanxi province) on 17 September for lack of evidence. After being held for 29 days for writing a book about the Sanmenxia Dam entitled “The Great Migration,” he has been able to return to Beijing.
“Xie’s release is excellent news but now he must he now be quickly cleared of the charges of illegal commercial activity that the Weinan authorities brought against him,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call for the release of the printer who was also accused of illegal commercial activity for printing his book. It is still not known what has happened to him.” Continue reading
Radio Free asia, Aug. 17, 2010 -
HONG KONG—Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan have ordered the mass extermination of dogs following a wave of recent bites and amid growing fears of rabies, official media and residents said.
Animal activists have slammed the move as unnecessarily cruel, as it sanctions the indiscriminate slaughter of thousands of animals without any tests to determine if they are infected with the virus.
Figures from the Jiangchuan county center for disease control and prevention show that there have been 1,600 cases of dogs biting humans so far this year, with 77 people bitten in the space of just two weeks earlier this month.
“Are the dogs that are biting these people in fact infected with rabies?” said Lu Di, founder of the nongovernment Small Animal Protection Society.
“Have they been tested? If not, then it’s very doubtful.”
She said authorities in Yunnan are no stranger to the mass slaughter of dogs, citing a similar cull of 50,000 dogs in Mouding in 2006, and a smaller one in Miluo county last year.
“Now they have started doing it in Jiangchuan,” Lu said.
The government said that three out of six dogs killed recently and tested for the rabies virus were shown to be infected.
Calls to the Jiangchuan county government went unanswered Monday, while an official who answered the phone at the local center for disease control and prevention declined to comment.
“We have to get approval from the health department before we can accept telephone interviews,” he said.
Jiangchuan county is home to an estimated 20,000 dogs, and local media reports said around 3,000 had already been killed.
Official guidelines ban the killing of dogs using knives or cudgels, and dogs are to be killed “cleanly,” without bloodshed, local news reports said.
Photographs on news websites showed dogs being hanged from trees, dragged along behind motorcycles, and being chased by officials with nets and clubs.
People who had been bitten by stray dogs are eligible for a set amount of compensation in order to help with medical costs, the reports said.
A Jiangchuan resident said many people were happy to carry out the slaughter.
“Of course if one of your family has been bitten, people are going to want to kill the dog that did it,” the resident said. “But not all dogs are likely to bite people.”
“Some people support [the cull], but others are against it.”
One anonymous guest on a Yunnan news website identified as writing from Beijing commented wryly on the story: “So if you find one corrupt government official, does that mean you are going to shoot all the officials?”……(more details from Radio Free Asia)
By Clifford Coonan in Beijing, The Independent, UK, Friday, 13 August 2010 -
China’s growing thirst for water is driving one of the world’s biggest mass relocations, with 440,000 people leaving their homes to make way for a huge man-made canal project to channel water to drought-prone Beijing.
An advance party of 499 villagers were moved yesterday from their homes near Wuhan in Hubei province, China’s heartland, in preparation for one of the biggest irrigation schemes in history.
By the end of September, 60,000 people will have left the area. The remainder will be relocated by 2014, giving up their homes to make way for the South-North Water Diversion Project (SNWD) which will divert water from China’s largest river, the Yangtze.
“I am surprised nobody cried when the coaches left our village. Last night, we felt sorrow when the whole village gathered to have our last dinner in our home town together,” a villager named Wang told Xinhua news agency, leaving their town in Danjiankou, which by 2014 will be under 560ft of water.
The project is designed to take water from a section of the Yangtze, to satisfy demand in northern China’s drought-prone mega-cities, including the capital Beijing and the busy port of Tianjin. North China has only 20 per cent of the country’s water but 64 per cent of all arable land.
At least 440,000 residents will be relocated to make way for the first stage of the project’s eastern and central routes, with 330,000 of them living in Henan and Hubei provinces.
The last time China moved so many people was when it was building the £15bn Three Gorges Dam project, the world’s largest hydroelectric project, on the Yangtze in the late 1990s. Back then 1.4 million people were forced to move as their villages were submerged beneath a reservoir 410 miles long. The project was completed in 2006.
Environmentalists have criticised both projects and say that the dam scheme has caused ecological problems. The banks of the Yangtze are being eroded by the weight of the water behind the dam, hazardous landslides blight the area as water levels fluctuate wildly and huge waves crash against riverbanks. Construction of the dam flooded 116 towns and hundreds of ancient historical sites, but it remains a potent symbol of China’s technological prowess. However, the Three Gorges Dam project has given the Chinese valuable experience in moving large numbers of people…….(more details from The Independent)
AFP, Aug. 10, 2010 -
HONG KONG — Chinese zoos and safari parks treat their animals “barbarically,” including abusing them to perform tricks and depriving them of proper food and shelter, an animal welfare group said.
Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation said its investigation of 13 Chinese zoos and safari parks between September 2009 and August 2010 uncovered evidence of animals being beaten with sticks and metal hooks as well as tigers and lions with their teeth and claws removed, causing chronic pain.
The group’s 28-page report documents “the barbaric treatment of animals and the poor living conditions they are forced to endure.”
“A large number of captive animal establishments in China provide animal performances as a form of entertainment for visitors. The techniques used to force such animals to perform tricks are cruel and abusive,” said the report released Monday.
“Showmen frequently engage in negative reinforcement, whipping and striking the animals repeatedly, forcing them to carry out tricks that go against their natural behaviour.”
The group said its probe also uncovered evidence of animals housed in “small, barren, concrete enclosures often in darkened rooms at the back of the performance areas away from the visitors.”
“The living conditions for performing animals fail to meet their basic welfare needs. Many of the animals have no visible access to water,” it said.
The report features photographs of bears being forced to “box” each other and ride motorcycles along a highwire, tigers prodded into jumping through flaming hoops, and elephants “performing uncomfortable and humiliating tricks such as standing on their heads, and spinning on one leg.”…...(More details from AFP)
VOA News, 30 July 2010 -
The environmental group Greenpeace says it believes an oil spill in northeastern China was up to 60 times larger than has been reported.
Richard Steiner, a marine conservation expert from the University of Alaska, announced the conclusion Friday after a 10-day on-site investigation.
Steiner estimates the July 16 explosion at an oil terminal in Dalian released 60,000 to 90,000 tons of crude oil into the South China Sea, making it larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. Official estimates have said only 1,500 tons of crude were spilled.
The explosion ruptured two pipelines and ignited a fire that raged for 15 hours. Greenpeace said Chinese workers told the group they deliberately released additional oil into the sea to contain the fire and reduce the risk that a nearby tank of dimethylbenzene would explode.
Steiner said at a Beijing news conference that the explosion and fire completely destroyed one oil tank with a capacity of 90,000 tons. He said Greenpeace was told that the tank had been filled shortly before the blast.
He said a spill of that size would rank among the 30 largest ever recorded.
The oil spill expert, engaged as a consultant by Greenpeace, said Chinese crews have already recovered more than 1,500 tons of oil – the amount officially said to have been spilled.
Reuters news agency contacted PetroChina on Friday but said officials of the company, which operates the oil storage facilities at Dalian, could not confirm or deny the Greenpeace findings.
- VOA News
BBC News, July 28, 2010 -
Flooding in northeastern China has stranded 30,000 people in one town and washed 1,000 barrels of explosive chemicals into a river, reports say.
In Kouqian town in Jilin province, residents were trapped when a reservoir and two rivers overflowed following torrential rain.
In Jilin city itself, containers of explosive fluid from a chemical plant were washed into the Songhua river.
China is facing its worst flooding in more than a decade.
Weeks of heavy rain have swollen rivers and caused damage, landslides and bridge collapses across a swathe of the country.
According to state media, 928 people have died because of the seasonal bad weather and another 477 are missing.
More than 200 rescue workers have been sent to Kouqian, where tens of thousands of residents are reportedly trapped after the Xingshan reservoir and the Wende and Songhua rivers burst their banks.
Chinese media reports said houses and buildings were under water, and 80 people were trapped in a train station surrounded by water.
In Jilin city, emergency teams were trying to recover barrels of explosive chemicals washed into the river.
Environmental officials were said to be monitoring the water quality in the river.
Further to the south, in Wuhan city in Hubei province, workers were sandbagging river banks ahead of possible flooding where the Yangtze and Han rivers converge…….(More details from BBC News)
AFP, July 22, 2010 -
BEIJING — Chinese authorities battled Thursday to contain an oil spill on the country’s northeast coast amid reports it was spreading and as warnings emerged of a heavy long-term environmental impact.
The government has mobilised hundreds of fishing boats and other vessels to clean up the spill that occurred in the port city of Dalian, but Greenpeace said many people thrown into the effort were reduced to using their bare hands.
The spill happened last Friday after two pipelines exploded at an oil storage depot, triggering a spectacular blaze that burned throughout the weekend.
Officials said shortly after the spill that about 1,500 tonnes of oil were spilled into the Yellow Sea off Liaoning province.
A government estimate Monday said the slick had affected 435 square kilometres (around 170 square miles) of the Yellow Sea.
However, a report late Wednesday said the slick had spread to 946 square kilometres, and stretched as far as 90 kilometres along the coast. The report appeared in the Shenyang Evening News, based in the provincial capital.
The government has said about 40 special oil-skimming vessels were leading the clean-up and that 23 tonnes of oil-eating bacteria were being employed.
China National Petroleum Corp, the country’s biggest oil company and owner of the pipelines that exploded, said in a statement on its website Thursday that at least 400 tonnes of the spilt oil had been cleaned up already.
Zhong Yu, a Greenpeace campaigner observing the clean-up efforts, however said many of the mobilised civilians and firefighters had no equipment or protective gear.
“The citizens-turned-cleaners we saw yesterday in the sea basically did not have any protective gear and could only use their hands to clean up the oil,” she told AFP by phone.
Zhong said tourist beaches and other long stretches of coast were awash with black sludge up to 30 centimetres (one foot) thick near the shore.
“There is a strong smell of acid and oil in the air,” she said.
The economic impact was already being felt by businesses in the area, with state press reports saying tourist beaches normally crammed with summer visitors were empty. Some beaches were officially closed to the public.
The area also has a major fishing industry, but catches had been banned for now……. (more details from AFP)
Tim Webb, The Observer, Sunday 18 July 2010 -
BP ordered the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, whose explosion led to the worst environmental disaster in US history, to overhaul a crucial piece of the rig’s safety equipment in China, the Observer has learnt. The blow-out preventer – the last line of defence against an out-of-control well – subsequently failed to activate and is at the centre of investigations into what caused the disaster.
Experts say that the practice of having such engineering work carried out in China, rather than the US, saves money and is common in the industry.
This weekend BP remained cautiously optimistic that the cap placed on top of the Gulf of Mexico well on Thursday night would continue to hold back the torrent of oil. It is the first time the flow has been stopped since the accident happened almost three months ago. But BP said that the pressure readings from the Macondo well were not as high as it had hoped, which could indicate that it has ruptured and that oil could be leaking out somewhere else.
There is no evidence that the significant modifications to the blowout preventer (BOP), which were carried out in China in 2005, caused the equipment to fail. But industry lawyers said BP could be made liable for any mistakes that a Chinese subcontractor made carrying out the work. It would be almost impossible to secure damages in China, where international law is barely recognised.
It is understood that lawyers for Cameron International, the manufacturer of the BOP, will argue the device was so significantly modified in China that it no longer resembled the original component, and that Cameron should therefore not be held liable.
Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon, which bought the BOP from Cameron, has already told congressional hearings into the disaster that the modifications were carried out at BP’s request and “under its direction” as the lessee of the rig. BP and Cameron declined to comment this weekend…….(more details from The Guardian)
NTD TV –
State media Xinhua reports that recent heavy rains triggered the landslide. But local geological expert Fan Xiao believes there may be another cause.
[Fan Xiao, Sichuan Geological and Mineral Bureau]:
“It’s mainly because of large scale work in recent years to construct the hydroelectric plant. Along the Dadu River there are over 20 hydropower stations which are all undergoing large-scale work… this has damaged the stability of the mountainsides, leading to mudslides when it rains. And digging also damages the stability of the mountain body, so eventually this creates a large scale mountain collapse.”
The part of the mountain that collapsed on Tuesday reached nearly 1.5 million cubic feet. It crushed a shed where construction workers slept, and temporarily blocked the water flow at a tributary of the Dadu River.
Fan Xiao, who is the chief engineer of the Regional Geology Investigation Team of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau, says hydropower construction in the region also poses other risks.
[Fan Xiao, Sichuan Geological and Mineral Bureau]:
“Many hydropower plants along the Dadu River are very large in scale. They have very tall dams that store a large amount of water. Coincidentally, the river is along an earthquake belt, and chances of these dams triggering an earthquake are very high too.”
In recent years, the Chinese regime has undertaken numerous hydropower projects to supply growing demands for electricity.
After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake Fan, and other experts, urged the suspension of new hydropower plants and a reassessment of geological risks posed by large-scale dams in the area.
- NTD TV
Michael Sheridan and Richard Jones, The Times, May 30, 2010 -
The Three Gorges dam was so vast and sweeping a vision that nothing could stand in its way. Not the old cities of the Yangtze valley, storehouses of human toil and treasure for more than a thousand years. Not the lush, low-lying farmlands, nor the villages, nor even the pagodas and temples that graced the riverbanks.
The cries of dissenting scientists and the lamentations of more than a million Chinese people forced to leave their ancestral lands counted for nothing.
When the waters rose to 570ft last year, drowning all these things, it marked a triumph for the engineers at the top of the Chinese Communist party.
But in the past six months a sinister trail of events has unfolded from the dam all the way up the 410-mile reservoir to the metropolis of Chongqing.
It began with strange, small-scale earthquakes recorded by official monitoring stations and reported by the Chinese media.
Mysterious cracks split roads and sundered schoolhouses and apartments in newly built towns and villages on the bluffs looking down on the river.
The local government now says that 300,000 people will have to move out in addition to the 1.4m evicted to make way for the dam.
More than 50,000 residents have already been relocated owing to seismic problems that were not foreseen when the dam was built, according to the state news agency, Xinhua.
As the boats sail by, landslides can be seen from the river — some small, some big — staining the waters of the Yangtze with minerals and sediment.
Big pleasure cruisers, tramp steamers and shoals of sampans plough through waters that switch from hue to hue as their chemical composition changes.
In Badong county, midway through the Three Gorges, celebrated in Chinese painting and poetry, the citizens are troubled by a sense of foreboding.
The local government hastily moved out of a prestigious new block after experts warned that it was unsafe.
But ordinary folk and even schoolchildren have been left to fend for themselves. More than 3,000 children attend school every day in a building dating back to 1943 that officials know to be at risk of collapse. Nothing has been done to move them, supposedly because of a lack of funds.
The playground is riddled with cracks. One ominous jagged line runs down the side of the classrooms.
“The government agrees that our whole school must move,” said a worried teacher, who asked not to be named, “but so far it’s just talk.”
In a telling example of China’s glaring class differences, a group of unemployed workers live in housing provided by the state that is visibly cracking at the seams.
“What kind of dogshit government moves itself out and moves us into somewhere like this?” one of them complained.
“My house is like a fishing pond whenever it rains,” said Grandma Wang, 72. “I don’t mind for myself because I am old, but I care for my granddaughter, who is 10 and has to live in here.”
Badong is one of many places where the land and the water have interacted in ways that only a few scientists predicted before the dam was built. Their objections were overruled by the party.
But last week even the state media acknowledged that the Three Gorges area faced a “grim” situation. Officials have counted 97 significant landslides this year alone. These are linked to the worrying increase in seismic activity. ….. (more details from The Times)
Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent, guardian.co.uk, 24 May 2010 -
Chinese hydropower lobbyists are calling for construction of the world’s biggest hydro-electric project on the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra river as part of a huge expansion of renewable power in the Himalayas.
Zhang Boting, the deputy general secretary of the China Society for Hydropower Engineering, told the Guardian that a massive dam on the great bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo – the Tibetan name for the river – would benefit the world, despite the likely concerns of downstream nations, India and Bangladesh, which access water and power from the river.
Zhang said research had been carried out on the project, but no plan has been drawn up. But documents on the website of a government agency suggest a 38 gigawatt hydropower plant is under consideration that would be more than half as big again as the Three Gorges dam, with a capacity nearly half as large as the UK’s national grid.
“This dam could save 200m tonnes of carbon each year. We should not waste the opportunity of the biggest carbon emission reduction project. For the sake of the entire world, all the water resources than can be developed should be developed.” That CO2 saving would be over a third of the UK’s entire emissions.
The mega-facility is among more than 28 dams on the river that are either planned, completed or under discussion by China, according to Tashi Tsering, a Tibetan scholar of environmental policy at the University of British Columbia……. (more details from The Guardian)