Environment & the World

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Tracking water polluters in China

Filed under: China, Water — Cathy @ 6:44 pm

The Beijing Review (http://www.bjreview.com.cn/nation/txt/2007-01/10/content_53158.htm) ran an interesting article today about Ma Jun, a leading Chinese environmental activist and recently named China’s “Green Person of the Year.”  Ma’s work is primarily related to water pollution and his 1999 book “China’s Water Crisis” has been compared to Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” for the impact it has had on the Chinese environmental movement and government policy.  His decision to write the book was based on a trip to the Yellow River:

“During one of Ma’s field trips to the Yellow River, the second longest river in China, in the mid-1990s, he found to his surprise that the river, which went dry seasonally in its lower reaches for the first time in 1972, ran dry for stretches of up to 700 km for a record breaking 226 days in 1997, due to increased demands on the river for irrigation use.

Even more shocking for Ma was the comments of experts on such a phenomenon. “I heard some mainstream water experts rejoicing over this tragedy, saying that not only was the river no longer overflowing its banks, but not a single drop of the river water is wasted in the sea, ” said Ma. He made the decision to write his book after finding out that the Yellow River irrigation model, regarded as a success, would be copied on other major rivers.”

Now Ma’s work focuses on mapping water pollution levels and the locations of companies who are discharging illegal levels of water pollution.  Already the database contains over 3000 companies – including 33 multinational companies and 5 Fortune 500 companies.  In Ma’s words, “They have repeatedly stressed their commitment to environmental protection and good corporate citizenship to Chinese consumers. It is regrettable that they even failed to meet the environmental standards of the local government even if they have the capacity, capital and techniques to do so.” Indeed, not only have these companies failed to live up to Chinese water pollution laws, but they have even tried to pressure Ma to withdraw their names from his map; thus far, he has refused to do so.

According to http://www.probeinternational.org/tgp/index.cfm?DSP=content&ContentID=16545, the Fortune 500 companies include “a subsidiary of Panasonic, Changchun Pepsico, and Nestle Sources Shanghai.”

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