Officials sacked over damage done to Tai Lake

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2007, 12:00am

Five officials from Jiangsu have been sacked or disciplined for allowing further contamination of Tai Lake just days after an algal bloom sparked a water crisis affecting millions of residents in nearby Wuxi .

The penalties came as Premier Wen Jiabao said local governments should do much more to resolve the problem of Tai Lake.

'[We] have tried to clean up Tai Lake for many years but the problem has not been resolved fundamentally,' Xinhua quoted Mr Wen as saying in a statement sent to a special meeting held in Wuxi yesterday. 'What is happened in Tai Lake should ring the alarm bells for us, and we must pay the highest attention to it.'

Chairing the meeting, Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan said officials must show their 'strongest determination' to resolve the Tai Lake problem.

Xinhua said all towns around Tai Lake had been ordered to set up sewage treatment plants and all chemical factories would have to meet new water effluent standards by the end of June next year.

The five officials were from Yixing , an area under Wuxi's administration, and were either leaders of Yixing's Zhoutie township or responsible for environmental protection, the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post reported yesterday.

Tai Lake, China's third-largest freshwater lake, has been seriously contaminated by surrounding cities which have expanded rapidly. The nutrient-rich runoff into the lake spurred the growth of blue-green algae in the water near Wuxi in the past few weeks, triggering panic buying of bottled water.

Last week, China Central Television showed ' footage of some Yixing businesses pouring untreated waste water into Tai Lake several days after Wuxi's water crisis.

The Wuxi disciplinary committee said the officials' 'dereliction of duty' and 'lack of awareness about environmental protection' had allowed the businesses to pollute the lake, according to the Oriental Morning Post.

Xu Jiehua , wife of Tai Lake anti-pollution activist Wu Lihong , said she hoped the punishment of the officials would help her husband's case.

'The punishment [of those officials] demonstrates that all Wu has done is for the right cause,' Ms Xu said.

Wu was detained in April for allegedly blackmailing officials from his home town, Zhoutie. But Ms Xu said her husband had fallen into a trap set by local officials to stop him continuing his anti-pollution campaign.

Wu's lawyer Zhu Xiaoyan said she was not sure whether the officials' downfall would have a positive effect on his case.

'The most important thing is that Wu has been charged with blackmail. The latest development is that the local court also sued him for swindling, a more serious charge. So these criminal charges don't have much connection with environmental protection,' Ms Zhu said.

Wu was due to appear in court today, but the court decided to postpone the trial indefinitely. His wife claims that he has been tortured.