Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jiangsu acid leak exposes another hole in China's environmental enforcement apparatus

Coming right on the heels of northern China's severe drought, another environmental disaster has gripped newspaper headlines: "Toxic water scare leaves a sour taste" (see China Daily). Water supply to more than 200,000 residents of Yancheng, Jiangsu province, was disrupted after carbolic acid was found to have contaminated the city's water system. Carbolic acid can damage the central nervous system as well as the kidneys and heart.

Local officials claimed to have inspected the water supply and found nothing amiss, but reports from residents suggest a longer-term pattern of incompetence and denial. According to the article,

Petitions calling for action by the government [to curb water pollution] also went unanswered, said fellow villager Zhou Weixiang, who added: "The factory is said to have contributed a lot to the local tax revenue. We could do nothing about it."

None of this is terribly surprising. Local governments are often blamed for severe lapses in environmental monitoring and enforcement (see previous post). But as one in a string of environmental disasters to hit China in recent months, CGS considers that the Jiangsu incident should persuade Beijing that it is right to be worried about environmental discontent in the Year of the Ox (see previous post).

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