Paper plant's toxic gush threatens millions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2008, 12:00am

The health of more than 100 million residents living beside the Pearl River is under threat from a small paper factory in the Guangxi autonomous region that is pumping large volumes of crimson toxic waste into the waterway's major source, an internal government report has said.

The discharge from the state-owned Guangxi Forestry Lipu Paper Company has stained about 3km of waterway red, killed dozens of hectares of crops and left villages near the plant in Lipu county, Guilin, plagued by cancer, according to the report, submitted to the regional government last month.

The pollution had killed all fish and most river creatures in the Li River, one of the biggest upstream branches of the Pearl River, villagers living on the river said.

'The mill is a killer on the loose, a direct threat to the drinking-water safety of millions,' a Guangxi-based environmentalist said.

Farmers in Xincun, Wangleiwan and Wuli villages have drunk coloured, filthy well water for years and pass out frequently whenever the plant's black smoke hits their communities. They are dying from cancer and respiratory illnesses, but they are not the only people complaining.

Government officials from downstream Pingle county protested to the regional government every year about the environmental damage, sources said.

Finally in September, Guangxi regional chairman Lu Bing ordered the plant to shut down, but his order was ineffective.

With the help of the county government, an environmental evaluation report was quickly forged, inspection visits were arranged and the plant resumed production within half a month, the report said.

The factory is the county's top taxpayer, making 400 million yuan every year by producing more than 30,000 tonnes of packaging paper.

A plant official blamed 'greedy' villagers for demanding too much for the land needed for new waste-treatment equipment, the report said.

Factory management declined to comment on the pollution allegations yesterday.