Oil slick flows down Yellow River

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 April, 2003, 12:00am

An oil slick from illegal discharges from factories in the Gansu section of the Yellow River is flowing towards Ningxia.

The spill, first noticed in the industrial section of Lanzhou city on Tuesday, might reach Ningxia in the next few days, the Lanzhou Morning Post reported.

The province is only a few hundred kilometres downstream from the city.

The report said the slick was industrial gasoline discharged by Lanzhou factories in the middle of night.

Officials were unsure how much oil was involved but Lanzhou residents said that thousands of litres of the gasoline had covered river's surface and created a nauseous smell.

'The pollution is very serious,' one local resident said.

But by yesterday afternoon, residents said the Yellow River's current had flushed most of the oil away from the area.

A Ningxia provincial environmental official said they had despatched clean up crews to the Yellow River area.

The report said the spill area was known for illegal dumping of toxic materials.

A Gansu provincial environmental officer said they were already investigating hundreds of the industries near the site of Tuesday's spill.

The oil slick incident is the latest drama to hit the Yellow River, whose basin is known as the cradle of Chinese civilisation.

Originating in Qinghai and passing through nine provinces and autonomous regions, the river is subject to massive industrial and urban pollution.

The State Environmental Protection Administration said only 7 per cent of the water flow met national quality standards, with more than 60 per cent classified as seriously polluted.

The river is also threatened by drought.

It has dried up every year since 1985 and in 1998 it dried up for more than seven months, the longest spell on record.