A big stinking shithole

Last xinnian, I travelled to Sichuan with the intention of going up to Jiuzhaigou for a couple of weeks. New year transport wierdness meant we couldn’t get out of Chengdu for four days, so we decided to head east to San Xia, the Three Gorges. We spent two weeks walking, traveling on small boats that were combination courier/home/kitchen, switching to dodgy ‘cruise liners’, and one infamous all-night taxi van suicide trip that was surreal, funny and terrifying.

Aside from the sheer beauty of the place, the horrific environmental destruction left me in tears. Even before the Three Gorges Dam is completed, this is a river that is suffering unimaginable levels of degradation, which will only intensify once the dam is completed. One giant shit-filled septic tank.

Peking Duck today wrote about this catastrophe, and it reminded me of what I saw all the way from Chongqing to Wuhan: endless destuction. Imagine Lord of the Rings, and the desecration inflicted on Orthanc, then imagine it stretching for hundreds of kilometers, fueled by the monstrosity of Chinese industrialisation hysterically out of control, and western corporate greed at its most craven.

This article can’t do justice to the visceral disgust I felt at the

perpetrators of this abomination, but it’s definitely worth reading:

Despite worsening problems with pollution, there’s only one private environmental group in the upper Yangtze River region, the Green Volunteer League of Chongqing.

Its president, Wu Dengming, sympathizes with local officials who’re torn between demands by Beijing to stop dumping waste and pressures to maintain economic growth.

“Once the factories that pollute are closed, it causes big social problems. People will lose their jobs,” said Wu.

He held up pictures showing waste near factories along the river. “These photos show that the Yangtze River has turned into a garbage dump,” he said, then added: “The common people, including officials, have no awareness of environmental protection. If economic activity causes environmental damage, they don’t care. They just want to make money.”

About a quarter of the 207 tributaries that flow into the Yangtze River are so seriously polluted that the water is unfit for irrigation, local press reports say.

The Yangtze’s water quality has also deteriorated. State officials say it’s at grade three under a Chinese rating system, which means it’s of poor quality but usable for various purposes. However, the state system doesn’t include a count of coliform bacteria, a sign of raw sewage, which would drop the grade further.

Some 30,000 ships and vessels operating in the Three Gorges Reservoir dump an estimated 7 million tons of excrement into the Yangtze every year.

Moreover, cities keep dumping raw sewage into the river basin.

Last year, Gweilo Diaries wrote:

Yesterday China began filling the world’s largest open-air latrine. Ironically, the 385 mile stinking cesspool is a fitting tribute to the man behind it — the butcher of Tiananmen Square, Li Peng.

The Three Gorges Dam is terrifyingly, only one part of a continent-wide project that will dam and divert all the major rivers and tributaries in China from Tibet where they have their sources to where the the land becomes too flat or the river crosses the border. And once again, the whole mess is bank-rolled by the western banks and corporations. If you’re planning on a holiday down the river, don’t bother, just roll around in your own shit, it’s more attractive.