Industrial growth in China has created wide-spread economic growth.  The two naturally go hand-in-hand and are good things, but there is a cost to such expansion.  With gains in industry comes the need to regulate industrial waste.  In China, 70% of the waste in waterways is caused by industry.  The Ministry of Environmental Protection has tried to prevent industries from dumping into waterways that provide drinking water downstream – to little avail.  The national Ministry of Environmental Protection can be over-ruled by smaller, local governments, closer to the locations of the factories themselves.  As factories employ local residents, they hold some power over local ministries.

How bad is water pollution in China?  According to the Yellow River Conservancy Committee, 33.8% of the Yellow River water quality tests have shown that the water in the river is not safe for drinking, aquaculture, agriculture, or even industrial use.  Of course, water pollution is not limited to the Yellow River, which is China’s second-longest river.  The Ministry of Environmental Protection conducted tests in 2008 and found that over 20% of water in close to 200 rivers that provide water for domestic use was unsafe to drink.  In 2005, the Songhua River had cancer-causing chemicals like Benzene spilled into it. Benzene is used in the production of paint remover, glue, and certain fuels.  In the human body, it harms bone marrow and the production of red blood cells.

With water being a scarce resource in China, the country must begin using systems that will turn unusable water into drinkable water.  

Sources: The Daily Mail,  China’s Yellow River is ‘unsafe for any use’ because of high pollution level, 25 November 2008

The New York Times, Pollution turns river red in central China, Feb. 27, 2008