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Problem not just a crisis

Updated: 2013-07-08 07:15
( China Daily)

Cadmium and thallium are unwelcome names in present-day China, although they had not entered our everyday vocabulary until recently.

Yet the cadmium and thallium pollution in some parts of the Hejiang River in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region has not caused panic either locally or downstream in Guangdong province.

The local authorities' quick emergency response and timely information sharing have contributed greatly to the successful management of the crisis. We hope this will inspire more authorities, higher and lower alike, to be more open and efficient when faced with similar scenarios.

However, not all our troubles emerge in such an obvious manner. While the nation has grown sensitive to environmental problems that present themselves in the form of emergencies and crises, people are shamefully insensitive to less obvious forms.

The latest media expos of the state of the Hangzhou Bay, for instance, is sad testimony to a collective neglect of the less sensational aspects of environmental damage.

There has been no high-profile bad news about pollution or environmental degradation in Hangzhou Bay in recent memory. But as the fish farms and crab farms and fishing harbors have given way to the biggest concentration of modern chemical industries, Hangzhou Bay has become polluted. Water quality there was ranked "extremely poor" in recent national environmental surveys.

One of the most important reasons why the pollution in the bay has managed to remain out of the spotlight until now could be the lack of a major emergency or crisis. Which is why even today, some factories there are still releasing industrial sewage directly into the sea.

But the most worrying part of the story is that the local environmental watchdogs seem to be getting along well with violators. If the media can finally see the problem, we wonder why it has escaped their notice.

The pollution in Hangzhou Bay is too serious to be left unattended, the local authorities should not wait for a devastating emergency before they intervene.

(China Daily 07/08/2013 page8)