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Half Empty ep.7: Combined public strength to curb groundwater pollution


05-21-2015 21:32 BJT

Full coverage: Special Series: Half Empty

If he relied on his land, farmer Gao Yinggang could die of thirst. His well is now useless. He doesn't dare drink the water, as it is so close to a polluted river that poisoned all of his 600 ducks last year.

groundwater pollution

Groundwater pollution

“I’m afraid the groundwater has also been polluted. If the river can make ducks die, it can do the same to people. I'd rather bring water from afar, instead of taking any water from the well," he said.

This is believed to be the source of the “death” --- the local textile printing and dyeing company. Approaching the discharge, you can see the severity of the pollution, and smell the stench.

The worsening water problems are a focus for environmentalists, among them, Ma Jun. For the past twenty years, he’s been searching for ways to change the situation.

Han Bin and Gao Yinggang

Han Bin and Gao Yinggang

China’s rapid economic growth put unprecedented pressure on the environment. For too long, industrial wastes have all ended up in rivers.

“Groundwater is almost still water that has a limited degree of self-purification. And the renewal of polluted groundwater is actually much more difficult than that of surface water. Pollution of groundwater, especially deep groundwater, is virtually irreversible," said Ma Jun, Director of Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs.

Ma Jun believes curbing pollution is the key to solving China ’s water crisis. And it begins with finding the source of pollution.

He's put a map online -- a map of the war against pollution. He hopes it will help mobilize the general public to join the campaign. The areas in red indicate how much work needs to be done.

Until fairly recently, pollution of China ’s groundwater had been a state secret. According to a government release, more than half of the groundwater across the country does not meet the national safety standard, or is being badly polluted. Many are calling for stricter regulations to halt the trend, and public supervision is also key.

Groundwater pollution

Groundwater pollution

Gao Yinggang remembers how clean the river was when he was a child. But now, it seems to kill everything it touches. The crops near the river have withered and died. The river contains hazardous chemicals and heavy metals. He has to carry water from faraway wells to irrigate his crops.

He expects a harvest, yet the insidious chain of pollution in soil, crops, and groundwater, could still be felt for many years to come.

“My great wish is for the river to be cleaned, and the groundwater protected from pollution," he said.

Ma Jun believes the barrier to cleaning up China's water pollution is not a lack of technology or money; but lack of motivation. He wants to make it easy for the public to get involved.

His new app, “Blue Map”, was created to track and shame polluting companies on a real-time basis. Most of the information comes from the government. The app compiles it in one place, and allows users to search quickly.

“We want to gradually push forward more transparency of pollution information. We have put all of the data onto cell phones so that everyone can monitor pollution and help drive polluters to change. Whoever breaks the law should be responsible. Whoever blocks enforcement should be punished. Eventually, we can achieve an effective anti-pollution campaign through public supervision," Ma said.

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