Turning a blind eye no cure for pollution woes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 December, 2009, 12:00am

The mainland's environmental protection laws are constantly being broken. Untold numbers of people across the nation are suffering from industrial pollution. Authorities are quick to respond whenever the media brings cases to light. But when the reporters go away, they can just as rapidly turn a blind eye and be deaf to pleas for help.

The government repeatedly says it wants China's rise to be peaceful and harmonious. It has put in place legislation that more often than not will allow this to happen. But laws are too often not being enforced. There is tragic evidence of this in the broken lives and livelihoods that have been caused by factories spewing toxic waste into the air and water and onto agricultural land.

This is what happened in the town of Zhentou in Hunan province. Lead emissions from a chemical factory have for years been making people sick and taking lives. Five months ago, journalists brought the cries for help from residents to the attention of officials. The response was swift; the factory was closed and assistance and compensation freely handed out. But with the media glare now gone, help has all but dried up. Fresh water is still being trucked in, but calls to honour pledges are being ignored. Officials are doing their best to ensure that petitions do not get handed in, and protests are broken up. Even internet connections have been shut down so that word does not spread.

The case is not isolated - there are any number of similar ones nationwide. Authorities clearly have an obligation in such circumstances to provide assistance for as long as it is needed. They have to do their utmost to make sure that laws are not breached.

The mainland's problems will not go away simply by ignoring them.