SHANGHAI: Five officials have been punished for their failure to stop
companies from discharging untreated sewage into Taihu Lake, where a massive
algae outbreak left the people of Wuxi without tap water for a week earlier this
The five officials from Yixing, a county under the jurisdiction of Wuxi, an
industrial and tourism city in East China's Jiangsu Province, were either
removed or demoted on charges of dereliction of duty for allowing the companies
to discharge wastewater into the lake.
The effluent is believed to have contributed to China's third largest
freshwater lake becoming covered in a blanket of blue-green algae. The algae
outbreak was also a result of last month's unusually warm weather and the low
water level in the lake. It focused the local authority's attention on the need
to clean up the polluted lake.
Since May 30, 439 companies have been inspected for their sewage discharges.
Twenty-two were found to have violated the rules and have been ordered to
improve their systems, according to a local environment watchdog in Wuxi.
But a China Central Television Station (CCTV) report on June 3 revealed that
some companies in Yixing were continuing to discharge untreated industrial
wastewater into Taihu, sparking public outrage.
"The companies' defiance of (environment) laws and the practice of
discharging polluted water reflects a lax attitude on the part of some
government agencies and that constitutes dereliction of duty," the Wuxi
municipal government said in a circular.
The five officials include three environmental protection officers, including
a deputy director of Yixing's environment protection agency.
"Meanwhile, Chaohu Lake, China's fifth-largest freshwater lake, was also
found to have been hit by similar algae outbreak recently, the circular said.
The western part of the lake, which is located in East China's Anhui Province
and covers 753 sq km, is now covered by the blue algae canopy, the Xinhua News
But the algae blanket is unlikely to spread to the whole lake, Xinhua quoted
Zhang Zhiyuan, chief engineer of the Anhui provincial environmental protection
bureau, as saying.
"Thanks to the recent rainfall that has diluted the lake, the algae has been
notably curbed," Zhang said.
In another develoment, the State Environmental Protection Administration
(SEPA) said in a survey that drinking water from Taihu Lake will not increase
the risk of cancer.
The SEPA tested the lake's water after a flood of text messages swept over
Wuxi claiming the water was "life-threatening".
(China Daily 06/12/2007 page4)