Without a shadow of doubt, one of the problems facing today’s China is water pollution. Maybe you will ask, how to define water pollution? Why we will say the water pollution problem in China is so serious? Actually, there are many different ways to measure water pollution. For example, use instrument to test the safety level of water or by using the ph-value to test whether it meets or exceeds the national standard or not. However, we are not professionals. Therefore, today I will just tell you two simple ways. First, by chemical indicators, we can take the water sample and measure the concentrations of chemicals that it contains.
If the chemicals are dangerous or the concentrations are too great, that means the water is polluted. Second, by biological indicators, we can examine living things that water will support. If living things can live in the water that means the water quality is still acceptable. However, if the living things can’t live, the water quality is so poor. These simple ways can test whether the water is polluted or not.
There are two main reasons that cause water pollution. First is the industry. In recent years, the rapid development of industrial and urban areas, and changes in agricultural practices. The discharge of waste from industries. The owners think that rivers and oceans are convenient places for them to dump their waste material. However, they did not concern these waste contains toxic substances that may cause damage to the river and lake and also, it is harmful for humans and aquatic animals.
Second, for the public, too many selfish and lazy members of the public have immediate satisfaction. This poor civic spirit, a mind-your-own-business, non-confrontational culture make the situation worse. In China, all you have to do is step outside to see evidence of a lack of public hygiene. One popular pastime is littering. The “expert” litterer refuses to put his cigarette butt, used tissue, or fish-ball stick in a bin, even if there is one only 3 steps away. It is not surprising that one day, we will live with sewage-strewn beaches and dead rivers.
All in all, because the discharge of waste from industries and selfish citizens and weak enforcement of littering laws and government complicity in pollution all combine to make prospects for improvement bleak.
Impact on Economic Aspect, Case Study:
Concerning pollution of river, algae bloom on Lake Tai has been the concrete example showing the negative impact of unsustainable practices on economic development in recent years. And the government needed to spend huge sum to revamp the situation.
Taihu is third largest lake in China, covering an area of 2400 km2. It is the major source of water to Shanghai, Suzhou, Changzhou and Wuxi, Hangjiahu Plain. As the Chinese saying goes, “those living on a mountain live off the mountain; those living near the water live off the water.” Therefore, the river becomes a major source of income to the local as well. Aquaculture industry, hairy crabs industry in particular, is thriving there. However, the mis-use of chemical substances around Taihu has led an ecological disaster since the 80s.
Apart from the industrialization and influx of population of 20 million people along Taihu, development of agriculture and aquaculture contributed to excessive nutrients inside the river.
According to Liang and He (2012), the organic pollutant in water sharply rose from 1% in 1987 to 29.18% in 1994. A proliferation of blue algae happens every now and then because of eutrophication in river.
Netted enclosures used in Taihu
As Qin discovers (as cited in wang, 2007) that excessive amount of bait led to eutrophication of river. Compared with that of river, the water sample of breeding grounds contained higher concentration of ammonia and nitrogen. Plus, the netted enclosures deterred the aquatic plants from purifying the water. And the slower flow of water supported accumulation of chemical.
Hence, the Jiangsu government annually invested RMB 2 billion for management of Taihu since the massive outburst in 2007. And 2.8 million tons of algae were removed between 2007 and 2011 (Liang and He, 2012).
According to Wu and Cai (2007), the Chinese government strictly controlled artificial breeding space then. The size of breeding grounds was prohibited to expand and limited to meet scientifically sound standard in Taihu, Chaohu and Dianchi. It was projected that the size of breeding grounds would significantly drop from 81 thousand to 32 thousand hectares in 2008, coupled with the output volume of 8 thousand tons. The sharp decrease in harvest by 10 thousand tons drove price rise.
In fact, besides the environment, the local government protected the livelihood of those crab farmers. After the implementation of projects, the number of hairy crab breeders was estimated to decrease to 1500 along Yangchenhu. Hence, provision of monetary compensation aside, these primary producers received knowledge transfer to shift to value chain of crab products. In short, rather than stable growth of GDP from the heavily polluted source, the local government would like to achieve long-term growth by restoring ecological balance and upgrading the development of cities.
Plus, the farming and horticulture industry were disallowed to develop within 1 kilometer of peak discharge of river to avoid soil contamination, in turn water pollution of river.
Finally, according to “Harvest Hairy Crab in Taihu, Output and Price rose by 30%”(2011), the quality of hairy crab along Taihu were better than before because of better water quality and limited production. And the Trophic state index dropped to 60.8 in 2011, compared to 62 in 2007 (Ding, 2012). Plus, as Xu reports (2008) that, despite smaller size of breeding ground of hairy crab, the better freshwater favor survival of crab seed which would not lead to a dramatic drop in output but maintain freshness of produce.
In conclusion, there is a long way to complete restoration of Taihu because of high accumulation of chemical substances from human activities nearby. However, the human-induced eutrophication of river can be controlled by the planning and monitoring of the local governments. Meanwhile, they can lay more effort into developing high-price hormone-free crabs to meet greater and greater demand over the world while maintaining sustainability of river for next generation of Taihu.
When considering our future, it seems we have two choices. We can passively let the future happen and live with dead rivers or alternatively we can actively change our future by taking specific steps like work together to keep the water clean so the living things and people remain healthy. We benefit, or suffer, from the decisions made by us today. For me, of course, I will choose the latter one. By doing so, there are three aspects that can do better.
First, for education. I think no one will disagree that the success of government education programs is a long term proposition. We need to make people aware of the water pollution problem and its impact. Educators can teach people to clean up their act and organize activities like community beach-cleaning sessions. Also, some concern groups can work with media like television channels or short movies to produce water management programs to promote public education. Education is the key. Positive public action can make a great change.
Second, for the laws. Recently, China has enacted regulations and laws to reduce water pollution. However, I think the government needs to punish the offenders. New laws, higher fines, stricter enforcement are indispensable. They can force people and companies to clean up their act.
Third, for the economy. Since a large amount of money spent on treating the polluted water. Many environmental experts agree “polluter pays principle” that means polluter needs to pay for the damage done to the natural environment. Therefore, they may fear that they need to pay more so they try to think some ways that cause less pollution.
Last but not least, according to GREENPEACE, “25% of China’s seven largest river systems, which include the Yangtze River, the Yellow River, and the Pearl River, fails to provide water which is suitable for irrigation and is considered highly polluted. In addition, 30% of the China’s rivers and 25% of her coastal areas are considered highly polluted. If one were to take all of China’s clean water supply and share it evenly with the population, the amount each person would get would be miniscule.1” Therefore, to live better or not, everyone is the director. Positive action can change our future. Just start from today, tackle water pollution before it is too late.