Residents in eastern Chinese city of Wuxi rushed to buy bottled water
after tap supplies became putrid from algae blanketing a nearby lake, and
scientists said the outbreak could last for months.
to buy bottled water at a supermarket in Wuxi, East China's Jiangsu
Province, May 30, 2007. [newsphoto]
The level of Taihu Lake in Jiangsu province was at its lowest in 50 years and
blue-green algae had spread, leaving the water that usually supplied Wuxi
undrinkable, Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.
Panicked Wuxi city residents stripped supermarkets clean of bottled water and
small shops raised prices, local newspapers reported.
The volatile mix of pollution, thirsty citizens and health worries echoed a
panic in late 2005, when millions of residents of Harbin in northeast China had
tap water cut off for weeks after a toxic spill in the Songhua River affected
Yang Weize, party secretary of Wuxi, a thriving Jiangsu industrial and
tourism centre with an urban population of more than 2.3 million, vowed on
Wednesday to guarantee safe drinking water "at all costs", Xinhua said.
An unnamed spokesman for the city government told a local newspaper that
about one-third of residents still had tap water untainted by algae. Officials
have been constantly monitoring the lake and ensuring bottled water is
available, he said.
Many of China's lakes and rivers are threatened by run-off from fertilisers,
dumped industrial waste and untreated sewage. Algae blooms can burst out in
water rich in nutrients from farm and domestic run-off. Xinhua cited experts as
saying low water levels this year had encouraged the outbreak.
Taihu Lake is the country's third biggest, covering 2,338 square km,
according to the Ministry of Water Resources. Levels of pollution from farm and
industry run-off have risen in recent years, the ministry has reported.
A research station that monitors the lake said a few days ago that the algae
had been "exploding" for a month.
"The foul water quality is seriously affecting urban residents' work and
life," said the report, posted on the website of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
station . It blamed unusually warm water and pollution flowing
into the lake.
"In coming months, as the water temperature of Taihu Lake continues to rise,
if the water level remains where it is now, the scale of the algae bloom will
expand and could last four to five months," it said.
Wuxi would try to artificially induce rain to flush the lake, and the
provincial government had agreed to divert more water from the Yangtze River,