The latest industrial accident in China is also an environmental disaster � for local people around Jilin and Harbin, and for those downstream in Russia. The chemical plant, a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), released tons of toxic benzene into the Songhua river on November 13th.
It was reported that, although local officials were informed immediately, the government did not publicly confirm the water poisoning until 10 days after the explosion. The local population had its water supply cut off, and many have left until the situation is resolved.
The tragedy is a reminder that environmental concerns, and the effective regulation of powerful state companies as well as those in the private sector, cannot be neglected, and the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) has issued a notice calling for better oversight and emergency planning.
However the scale of the job presents a real challenge. According to official Chinese figures, 420,000 companies were inspected between May and September last year. Of these, 2,682 companies were closed for discharging liquid waste and 1,750 had operations suspend. At the same time, nearly half of China’s rivers are reported to be polluted and, according to the World Bank, 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in China.
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