Underground waste discharge revelations shock China
In a country well used to the everyday reality of water pollution, revelations that industrial companies have been illegally pumping hazardous waste underground for years has shocked many in China.
Underground water pollution is a serious matter in China because groundwater-based sources account for a third of the country’s total water resources. Experts say that 90 percent of the nation's groundwater contains varying degrees of pollution, with a massive 60 percent being heavily polluted.
Recently, social activist Deng Fei revealed in his Weibo microblog how large numbers of chemical plants and paper mills use high pressure wells to illegally dump their hazardous chemical waste underground, contaminating the ground water. Despite this being a highly illegal practice, it has gone unpunished for many years and in many cities.
According to official figures continuous monitoring of data from across 118 cities now shows that about 64 percent of urban groundwater is heavily polluted and basic clean groundwater makes up for a mere three percent.
Deng’s blog went viral on 14 February and, having got wind of his writings, reporters from China’s mainstream media have visited the relevant companies to follow up on his claims.
Xinhua reported that high-pressure underground waste discharges from several enterprises have been leading to an increasingly high level of underground water pollution in eastern China's Shandong Province. As the week started, none of these enterprises had respond to these findings.
The official Weibo-blog for the People's Daily called for any citizens living around these polluting companies or suspecting this sort of goings-on in their areas, to contact the newspaper. "Let us do something to save our common home," the blog read.
In 2011 China’s State Council adopted a plan to protect the safety of the country's underground water resources. It has ordered local governments to list "pollution prevention" and "underground water supply control" in their working agendas and to set up an underground water environmental supervision system by 2015.
Over the longer term, China plans to invest 34.66 billion yuan (USD5.48 billion) on the prevention and treatment of pollution in the country's groundwater in 2011-2020, according to the plan. The groundwater protection plan is part of a larger, 4 billion yuan (USD642 billion) investment program in water conservation between 2011 and 2020.
Water security is regarded by many as being the most serious “clear and present danger” facing China. Last September HSBC published a report, based on research by China Water Risk, highlighting that the country’s ambitious plans to add more thermal power generating capacity appear to be unfeasible given its water resource constraints.