The Three Gorges dam is nothing much more than a giant toilet, slowing to a grinding halt the flow of the river which by virtue of its speed managed to at least partially carry away the endless amount of shit dumped into it by people too lazy or greedy to care. Not any more. With the rising of the waters, the shit is backing up like an unruly septic tank and the amazing lack of foresight or care for the environment has come back to squat like a stinking turd on the doorstep of every town and city up-river of the dam.
Chongqing’s environmental protection bureaus predict that sewage discharge, currently 1 billion tons, will reach 2.3 billion by 2010, and that the volume of trash will increase from 1.3 to 2.6 million tons in the same period.
However, the way of dealing with it all remains relatively primitive: using fishing boats to gather the rubbish up with sticks and hooks.
“If we don’t use more effective means, 40 billion square meters of water in the area will be severely polluted and the lower reaches will be affected,” said Wu Dengming, an expert on environmental protection and president of Chongqing Green Volunteers Association.
Liu Gujun, 39, is the head of Chongqing’s Wanzhou District river trash relief team. Since last year, his team has been in charge of clearing floating litter in 27 branches and 23 bays of the Yangtze.
In just one year, his 17-boat fleet has been reduced to 4 vessels. Most of them are refitted old fishing boats with an open hold on the foredeck to load the trash.
Weeds also increasingly darken the surface, a dangerous sign that oxygen in the water is diminishing and there is more growing room for floating plants.
Liu also said the variety and quality of fish in the river mouth have diminished greatly, the remaining ones being inedible. Dead fish began to appear in the river two months ago.
Although the pollution across the area is worsening, the only people fighting against it face disbanding for lack of money.
Initially they were funded by the local relocation bureau and were able to deal with 15,000 tons of trash, once collecting over 60 tons in one day. But several months ago the funding was handed over to the district department of environmental protection and they have since run short of money.