The first time it was almost world news; the second when upstart southern capital Guangzhou tried to get in on the ‘dump poisonous shit in the river and see if anyone notices’ routine, it barely brought a roll of the eyes. Shaoguan is along the Bei river, near the border of Hunan, and not far from Yingde and some of the places I’ve been climbing in. The achingly beautiful landscape, as real as a cliché of a Chinese ink and brush painting is eviscerated by a Mordor-esque gangrene of endless factories pouring a toxic soup of waste into the air and rivers and leveling the hills as surely as scraping muck of the sole of a shoe.
The astounding thing in this latest spill is not that it happened but that it was able to be measured against a background of such high levels of pollution. And as for claims of advising Guangzhou residents not to drink the water, no-one is stupid enough to drink the gunk anyway (though I did see one mad Chairman Mao impersonator doing laps in the Pearl River beside Shamian Island once).
Authorities had dumped 380 tonnes of chemicals and opened reservoirs to dilute the more than 1,000 tonnes of cadmium-contaminated water a zinc smelter spilled into the North River on Dec. 15, the newspaper said.
“The cadmium content of the slick dropped 20 percent on Saturday,” local environmental protection official Li Zisen was quoted as saying.
Shortly after the accident, cadmium levels in the water surged to nearly 10 times above safety standards, forcing authorities in areas downstream to turn off tap water supplies to tens of thousands of people in Guangdong province.