Party chief leads swim in polluted Pearl River

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 July, 2007, 12:00am

Thousands of people led by Guangzhou's party secretary swam across the polluted Pearl River yesterday in a bid to show that the water is safe for humans.

Zhu Xiaodan and more than 3,700 people swam an 800-metre stretch of the river between Sun Yat-sen University and the Xinghai Concert Hall. Mr Zhu said he was pleased with efforts to improve the river's water quality.

'I used to swim [in the river] when I was young and [I am] so happy that the river is suitable for swimming again,' he said.

'We should work hard together to protect the whole Pearl River Valley, both its upper and lower reaches.'

He said the government was working on a 2003 pledge to make the water in the Pearl River 'clear' by 2010.

However, Mr Zhu told local media two weeks ago that the river was not always clean enough for swimmers.

'Guangzhou's Pearl River is not suitable for swimming every day,' he was quoted as saying by the Information Times.

A Foshan resident, who took part in the mass swim yesterday, said he thought the water smelled contaminated and that the river was quite dirty close to the banks.

'You can see the colour [of the water] is grey and dark,' said the man.

However, another swimmer said she thought the water quality was just fine.

'I envy Guangzhou people because they can swim in this river,' said the swimmer, who is in her 60s. 'I felt quite good swimming today.'

The environmental protection authority said the stretch of river where the swim took place had measured grade three on their pollution scale for the past five days. Grade three is the minimum safety level required for swimming.

Two weeks ago Mr Zhu said the river's water was on average grade four or inferior grade four - two levels below the minimum safety standard.

Last year the mass swim, which was organised by the city's then party boss Lin Shusen , saw more than 3,500 people led by the governor Huang Huahua brave the river.

Local media reported that the government closed down hundreds of factories and temporarily closed all sewage draining exits on the river last year, days before the swim, to make the water safe for the event.