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Watching the water

By Wu Ni | China Daily | Updated: 2013-11-06 10:10

Watching the water

Dong Zheng discovers wastewater that has been discharged without being treated in Quzhou, Zhejiang province. Photos Provided to China Daily

When Quzhou lawyer Dong Zheng noticed paddy fields turning barren from the illegal dumping of untreated waste water, he knew something had to be done. He has now become a dedicated environmental crusader. Wu Ni reports.

Watching the water

Carrying a camera and strolling along the riverbank, Dong Zheng could be any tourist. But Dong is not enjoying the scenery. He is looking for hidden threats to the landscape, drainage outlets through which factories discharge untreated wastewater.

Over the past four years, Dong, a lawyer in Quzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province, has volunteered to search for concealed pollution outlets and regularly monitor wastewater with a group of local volunteers.

When the volunteers discover wastewater has been discharged without being treated, they report to environmental authorities, and sometimes expose the case to the media.

Watching the water

Not talking trash 

Watching the water

Pulling the cord on constraint 

It was by chance that Dong, 53, became known for revealing illegal pollution drainage, earning him the title of "environmental protection pioneer" of the city.

In March 2009, when Dong drove past a village in the city's Qujiang district, he was surprised to find a large section of paddies overgrown with grass. Local farmers said a chemical factory nearby had discharged industrial wastewater into the field, making the fertile rice field nearly barren.

"I felt indignant and was determined to make clear the truth," Dong recalls.

He consulted a friend and learned the simplest way to detect the quality of wastewater was to use a pH test strip. The result was shocking: the pH level of the water in the field was 1, indicating strongly acidic water.

"It was obvious that the wastewater was discharged into the rice field without being properly treated. It not only spoiled the land, but also flowed into streams that finally led to the river," he says.

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