In the year following that incident, China's State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) announced a five-year plan to address the widespread water pollution issues, committing a budget of 125 billion dollars to that national effort (Pacific Environment, 2006). In 2006 alone, the SEPA responded to 161 emergency environmental pollution incidents, almost two-thirds of which pertained to water pollution (China Daily, 2008).
Solving the Water Pollution Problem in China:
According to Ke Zhang (2006), a senior journalist with China Business Network Daily, Chinese environmental authorities report that "one water pollution incident takes place every two to three days, on average." Most experts agree that the key to addressing the water pollution problem in China lies in increasing law enforcement efforts and penalties for offending entities. Toward that end, the government has initiated a country- wide database designed to identify all pollution sources attributable to violations of environmental regulations (Pacific Environment, 2006).
In June 2008, the highest national legislative authorities passed the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law was passed at the 32nd session of the Standing Committee of the Tenth National People's Congress (NPC), held in February 2008. That law is composed of ninety-two provisions in eight chapters and includes much harsher fines in conjunction with legislative statements indicating a substantial change from previous governmental approaches relying primarily on administrative fines. According to the 2008 Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law:
Enterprise heads directly responsible for causing severe water pollution incidents and others with direct responsibility will be fined up to half of their income of the previous year,"
Enterprises would be held responsible for 30% of the direct losses of any serious water pollution incident they cause and 20% for incidents of medium consequences," and the amount of fines should be imposed according to the severity of violations..." (China Daily, 2008).
Critics of the Chinese government's previous failure to address the water pollution problem acknowledge that the new regulations are a substantial, if overdue, first necessary step toward protecting the safety, health and welfare of as many as 700 million Chinese citizens. Local authorities have also gone on record strongly encouraging both the reporting of water pollution violations and also strongly encouraging practicing attorneys to provide as much assistance as possible to citizens in connection with filing law suits for civil monetary damages caused by corporate practices that violate the new law or that have already caused pollution-related illness and damages (China Daily, 2008).
At the dawn of the 21st century, water shortage emerged as one of the most serious environmental issues on a global scale. Whereas large regions of Africa, Asia, India, and even several U.S. states are facing similar shortages, their situations are more attributable to natural environmental changes than to man-made causes. China faces one of the most serious problems arising from water shortage, but unlike most of the rest of the world where water shortage is becoming an issue, China is unique in the degree to which its water shortages are the result of man-made pollution and disregard for the environment.
The Chinese government was very slow to react by addressing the problem at its source, but following civil unrest in connection with a catastrophic chemical release into the Songhua River in 2005, it began to take the matter much more seriously. In 2008, the national legislature enacted sweeping changes to the regulatory system. Combined with a large financial commitment to ending water pollution in China, it is hoped that these measures will suffice to bring safe drinking water to those who have suffered from its scarcity for decades, since the growth of Chinese commercial industry and the irresponsible pollution of natural water sources in China.
Barber, K. (2007) High and Dry in the South. U.S. News & World Report (Oct 29/07).
China Daily. (2008). Tougher Law to Curb Water Pollution. (Feb 29/08).
Retrieved, December 3, 2008, from: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-02/29/content_6494712.htm
PacificEnvironment.com. (2008). Water Pollution in China. Retrieved, December 3, 2008, at http://www.pacificenvironment.org/article.php?id=1878
Schulte, B. (2007) a World of Thirst: Poor Sanitation. Pollution. Wasteful Irrigation. The Planet's Fresh Water Supply is Terribly Managed. U.S.…