Bloom of algae poised to choke Chao Lake

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2007, 12:00am

Continued industrial pollution makes further outbreaks inevitable in Anhui, says expert

The risk of another algal bloom on Chao Lake in Anhui province is on the rise as industrial polluters continue to dump waste into the mainland's fifth-largest freshwater lake, defying bans imposed by Beijing, a mainland water expert has warned.

The warning came as the top official in neighbouring Jiangsu pledged to clean up pollution-hit Tai Lake in the next three years, even at the expense of reducing the booming province's economic growth by 15 per cent.

The blue-green algae found in Chao Lake could develop into another major outbreak at any time, said Ma Jun , author of China's Water Crisis and director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Both Chao and Tai Lakes were hit by algae outbreaks last month due to heavy pollution, choking off drinking-water supplies for millions of people. The water crises sparked a public outcry over serious pollution threats and prompted Beijing's crackdown on riverside polluters.

Mr Ma, who concluded an inspection trip to Chao Lake last week, said yesterday: 'Pollution is obviously not under control, as many enterprises in Hefei city's industrial zone still discharge large amounts of pollutants into the lake.'

He said that although the algae's growth had been checked by recent rainfall and the transfer of fresh water from the Yangtze River, an algal bloom still looked likely because of the lake's high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. Both chemicals are widely used in fertilisers and soap powders.

A recent survey by the State Environmental Protection Administration and the Ministry of Supervision found that the Hefei industrial park, established in 1993 and one of the biggest in the mainland's central and western regions, had failed to pass a mandatory environmental impact assessment, the 21st Century Business Herald reported.

Most of the 342 enterprises in the industrial zone, including Haier and many foreign joint ventures, such as Unilever and Hitachi, had discharged their waste directly into Chao Lake for years, while existing sewage treatment plants had barely been put to any use, according to the survey.

As a result of the survey, local environmental authorities ordered a Hitachi Construction Machinery factory in Hefei to halt operations for dumping more than 160 tonnes of acid waste into the lake every day, an employee confirmed yesterday.

Meanwhile, Jiangsu party secretary Li Yuanchao said it was time to slow down economic growth to curb pollution, which threatened public health and was becoming a key source of social unrest ahead of the major Communist Party gathering that will be held this autumn.

In the wake of the Tai Lake water crisis, he admitted the province's development had been achieved at the expense of the environment.

'Polluting factories around Tai Lake must be shut down and polluting industries eliminated. That's how we pay back our debts to Mother Nature, even if our economic growth is to be cut by 15 per cent,' he said in a speech at the weekend.

'This is the price we have to pay if we want to prevent greater damage to future generations.'

Jiangsu has unveiled a plan to shut 2,150 small riverside enterprises by the end of next year.