The cost of economic growth: water pollution.
In China, (at least) 40% of rivers are seriously polluted : 75 billions tons of sewage and waste water is discharged into them, every year.
Picture via Sina Weibo
Before you move your eyes to the next post on your feed, think about that for a moment — 75 billion tons. Every year.
But what to do??
More from Karl
Everyone has heard or read about China’s big-city air pollution, yet visitors are still shocked the first time they encounter a bad day in Beijing—or Chongqing or Xian or Shenyang or any of the other large cities with chronically grimy skies.
And the problems that are less obvious at a glance are even more threatening. Toxic emissions into lakes, groundwater, and farmland; the drying-up of rivers and silting-up of dams; the rapid exhaustion of water in the northern half of the country that, in the view of many experts, is likely to be China’s next great environmental emergency; the millions of new cars that hit the road each year, spewing carbon dioxide; the billions of tons of coal that go up in smoke (yes, billions—China burns more than 2 billion tons of coal each year, about one-third of the world’s total); the engines on Chinese airliners that must be overhauled or replaced more frequently than elsewhere, an airline engineer told me, because operating in Chinese air corrodes the turbine blades…. living here, I don’t have the heart to keep ticking items off.
James Fallows, from “China’s Silver Lining,” in The Atlantic
Shanghai has been experiencing some of its most serious and long-lasting air pollution in months, as well as weather conditions that have contributed to thick clouds and a haze that has grounded some flights and led to vehicular crashes which killed at least one person and injured dozens.
Via “On Scale of 0 to 500, Beijing’s Air Quality Tops ‘Crazy Bad’ at 755” — NYTimes.com
I was living in Beijing when the index infamously hit “crazy bad.” Hard to fathom anything much worse than that, let alone a 755 day.
Some of my friends in Beijing have said the air burns their eyes and lungs. Here’s a picture of my colleague with his double-barreled air mask. Intense. Note he’s wearing a trash bag to protect his suit from the dirty air when he goes out.
I first noticed that something odd was happening around midday on Saturday, when Beijing passed the first of a series of unscientific measurements I use to take stock. First came the “indoor smog” test. When my wife and I walked into a mall in Beijing on Saturday, the air inside the vaulted-glass atrium had the color and weight of fog over a fishing village at dawn. We hadn’t noticed it before we got there because we’ve largely engineered our lives to avoid having to dwell on the issue. We live in a one-story house with windows that face the yard, in part because we discovered, years ago, that sweeping views from a high floor are just a daily reminder of all that you can’t see. We gave up running outside years ago and bought a treadmill, after a doctor-friend weighed the issue and concluded that running inside was better than going without exercise. This weekend, I climbed on the treadmill and wheezed to the end of a half an hour before deciding that we had now passed my next threshold: the “screw the treadmill” test.
By Sunday, Beijing was advising people not to leave their houses. The airport cancelled dozens of flights because pilots couldn’t see, and the capital ordered cars off the roads. Factories were shutting down, and the Web site of the environmental-monitoring center crashed….
For years, many China observers have asserted that the party’s authoritarian system endures because ordinary Chinese buy into a grand bargain: the party guarantees economic growth, and in exchange the people do not question the way the party rules. Now, many whose lives improved under the boom are reneging on their end of the deal, and in ways more vocal than ever before. Their ranks include billionaires and students, movie stars and homemakers.
Few are advocating an overthrow of the party. Many just want the system to provide a more secure life. But in doing so, they are demanding something that challenges the very nature of the party-controlled state: transparency.