Rivers run black with sewage in Shenzhen

Filled with pollutants, Shenzhen's Maozhou River is scheduled for an extensive clean-up operation that will finish in 2015

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 6:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 6:31pm

Filled with floating rubbish, stinking of sewage and darkened to a shade of black – this is Maozhou River, Shenzhen’s largest river and one of the most heavily polluted parts of the Pearl River Delta.

The river basin, home to about three million people, is slated for an extensive clean-up project costing over one billion yuan (HK$2 billion), Shenzhen Evening News and Sina News reports confirmed.

The “Maozhou River Rehabilitation Project” is part of a larger “Guangdong Clean Water Action Plan” designed to improve environmental conditions in the Pearl River Delta. The clean-up of Maozhou River is expected to finish in 2015, but the process faces significant obstacles – including severe amounts of ammonia, phosphorus and nitrogen in the river’s water that are 23 times higher than the amount deemed safe for drinking. 

Maozhou River, sometimes called the “black river” by Shenzhen residents, is most polluted in its tributaries, which are filled with construction sewage and other rubbish accumulated from nearby industrial complexes. The 250 factories near the river are well known for heavy polluting, and the region’s high migrant worker population has kept the factories in business and done little to stem the side of pollution, Shenzhen Daily reported.

Feng Shaohui, vice head of Guangming New District, one of the Shenzhen regions heavily involved in the Maozhou River Rehabilitation Project, told Shenzhen Daily reporters that a 124-kilometre sewage pipe would be built in Guangming to treat wastewater and other refuse.

Despite Feng’s claims that the construction of this pipe would be a major step in treating pollution, Shenzhen residents interviewed by Sina News were not especially optimistic, and most had reluctantly resigned themselves to the river’s condition.

“For several years now there have been people paying attention to the Maozhou River [problem], and there have been more than a few government cries [to clean the river],” a Shenzhen resident surnamed Li reportedly said. “But the water still stays black.”

“My family doesn’t dare open our windows,” said a woman surnamed Chen who has lived near the Maozhou River for 10 years. “Industrial companies keep on pouring their sewage into the water, and the stench gets worse and worse daily. But many of us have just got used to it. What else can we do?”

Online netizens commenting on news of the river’s rehabilitation echoed this sense of scepticism, and many said that their own provinces were also facing pollution issues.

“This is a problem that exists in every corner of China,” a Chengdu resident on Sina Weibo wrote. “Our rivers here [in Chengdu] are the same.”