Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Chemical Factory Explosion Destroys Water to Chinese City


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Two weeks ago, I read about a chemical factory explosion while reading about financial matters. Looks like the chemicals have destroyed the water quality of the city of Harbin in Manchuria. Water to 4 million people has been cut because it is too polluted for humans or animals. As usual, at first, the government lies about all this (like the EPA lying about the air quality in Manhattan after 9/11).
From the BBC:
The major Chinese city of Harbin is facing four days without water because of an unexpected mains stoppage.

The announcement that water supplies would be cut off from Tuesday has sparked panic-buying of bottled water and other drinks at local supermarkets.

There is confusion over why the authorities are cutting off the water.

Xinhua agency cited fears it had been contaminated by a chemical blast, but the China Daily quoted the government as saying it was for mains maintenance.
I read Xinhuanet because it carries standard diplomatic messages which amuse me greatly. I place the propaganda content there at a much lower level than the hysterically funny American diplomatic reports which are nearly 100% bullshit at this point. Only this month have the American press covered any real information in the diplomatic world. Like the NYT featuring Bush's idiotic "press conference" in China where he not only cut off questions in a snit but got beached by a locked door and couldn't move because his pea brain shorted out. Well!

The only security a population has from being literally poisoned to death is a free press that doesn't lie, cheat or steal! Here is Xinhuanet today:
The government of Harbin yesterday made a U-turn by admitting that fears of water contamination in Songhua River, which supplies the capital of Heilongjiang Province, were behind the city's four-day water supply cut.

On Monday, it rejected such fears as "just a rumour," saying the stoppage scheduled to begin late last night was for a thorough check of the water-supply system.

Students at Gongbin Primary School in Harbin join in the water-storage exercise as the city suspended its water supply at midnight Monday.[China Daily]
A government statement said yesterday that the environment bureau had forecast that possibly-contaminated water could arrive from the upper reaches of the river in the coming days following a chemical plant blast on November 13.

The chemical plant in Jilin city, in the neighbouring Jilin Province, is only a few hundreds metres from the banks of the 1,850-kilometre Songhua. Harbin is on the middle reaches of the river.

The water-supply cut, earlier announced to be from noon yesterday, was postponed to midnight as the government called on residents, work units and businesses to store enough water.

All the city's wells will be used to supply drinking water and the health department should ensure safety, the government said, adding that water tankers would be on standby.

City residents, who number 3.8 million, continued to buy and stock up water. All utensils, such as pails, kegs, thermos flasks, and washbasins in the city were filled; and containers enjoyed brisk sales.

Bottled mineral water remained out of stock in supermarkets and shops but beverages and milk were available.

However, there was no panic buying like on Monday or long queues at shopping centres because tap water was available.

At noon, the government issued a statement saying the water quality in Songhua was normal, and called on citizens to remain calm.
This is their New Orleans moment. Will the Chinese equivalent of Brownie now step forth and be equally clueless? Don't panic! There is no water, it is poisoned, yeah! One of the things Bush's maladministration couldn't do was provide water to the people huddled in government shelters long after the hurricane passed. It was a defining moment in our history. This, too, will define the rulership of Hu and Wen. They have been very good at the diplomatic stuff, very, very good. But domestic?

That is their weak point. Worker/peasant restiveness is growing and this isn't going to help the rulers at all. As long as rampant capitalist industrialization raises all boats, the people will be happy. But not if it kills them all! All over the planet, workers and peasants grapple with the downside of industrialization. The upsides are nice but like all yin/yang forces, the downsides are brutal. Indeed, this tandem force might annihilate us. This is why rushing into projects is so dangerous. Look at New Orleans! The health ill-effects of the hurricanes are barely understood. The entire city is caked in a thick, toxic mud that is now bone dry because they are in a drought now and the fine dust of all sorts of chemicals and carbons is now blowing about the place and you can bet, this is destroying people's basic health.

It is not being looked at very carefully because we don't want the bad news that the city is now uninhabitable except for desperate people who don't care if they die.

Here is more news from the BBC:
"Benzene levels were 108 times above national safety levels," said China's Environment Protection Administration.

The contamination followed an explosion at a chemical factory upstream of the Songhua river.

Some schools and businesses have closed in Harbin, a city of 3.4m people; flights out of the city are sold out.

"Everyone wants to leave Harbin and it is very difficult to buy tickets," a factory manager told Reuters.

Benzene is a highly poisonous toxin that is also carcinogenic.

Fifteen hospitals have been placed on stand-by to cope with possible poisoning victims.


The rivers of Europe when I lived there in the frantic sixties, as everyone was rebuilding after WWII, were filthy. I couldn't believe how horrible the water was. No one seemed to notice and I went around, pointing this out. When I came back to America, I noticed the same thing going on here. You see, I grew up in the wilderness, in pristine nature, it was quite a shock to see pollution.

Actually, I also lived in Death Valley. The water there is naturally polluted. You don't dare drink from any watering hole except for very special ones which were very tasty.

There is a cancer epidemic in the world. Americans are suffering from it. Part due to massive nuclear bombs going off at frequent intervals during the Cold War, a great deal due to industrialization and the spread of chemicals. We accept the poisoning of workers in factories. But when we poison everything, everything dies. Here is a classic example.

We citizens had to agitate for antipollution laws in the past. Here in NY, we are still fighting with GE over the pollution of the great Hudson River which was so polluted 30 years ago, the water changed color regularily as chemicals were flushed. These factories are now...In China! And the same old raging pollution is in China. Like our inflation, we exported our pollution.

I hope the Chinese can fight for their own country. I hope they can start Green Parties or Earth Days or find a leader like the Udalls to spearhead environmental protections. After all, we are the ultimate beneficiaries if we don't pollute! Unfortunately, here in America, the Bush gang is trying to undo as many antipollution laws as possible. The EPA no longer protects us or the planet. It exists only to serve the capitalists who can't figure out, you pollute the planet, you die.

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