At a time when China's water prospects are quite dim, the country's available water sources are growing darker. Roughly two weeks ago, a local chemical company polluted a tributary of the Songhua River in the northeastern province of Jilin with a 10 ton bubbly, red slick of a chemical called xylidine. This week, SEPA, the State Environmental Protection Administration, announced it had launched investigations into the chemical company at fault along with five other major polluters.
Though the watchdog group is getting stronger, reaching its tentacles into localities where dirty officials tend to be as rampant as dirty water, and locals are fighting back, even taking polluters to court, the toxic tales keep creeping in. Yesterday, the New York Times sneaks into an Inner Mongolian town overrun by a chemical spill essentially ordered by local officials—two years after federal orders to close culprit factories or build treatment plants went unheeded, largely to "protect" the local economy. Someone get them an economics lesson.
Ahead of this month's World Water Congress in Beijing, the government (which has grown quite zealous about throwing money at its environmental problems lately) just announced it would spend US$5 billion on improving water quality over the next five years, in order to "far exceed" its UN Millennium Development Goal.
As with (and related to) the country's other problems, solving the water issue depends depends on getting the money where it needs to go, in the face of the ubiquitious "corrupt local official." Otherwise change will keep flowing slower than a stream of sludge.