A senior environment official of a town in eastern China said his bureau was "not responsible" for a polluted river after he was challenged to swim in the water for 200,000 yuan.
Bao Zhenming, the environmental protection bureau chief of Ruian, in coastal Zhejiang province, was offered the reward (HK$246,000) by an entrepreneur who wanted to bring attention to waste-dumping in the river.
"We are not responsible [for the pollution]," Bao told Cnr.cn, the Web site of the official broadcaster China National Radio, on Monday.
“The responsibility does not lie with us, but we will pay attention to it,” Bao said.
Passing on the responsibility, he added he had alerted the water conservancy bureau about the river pollution.
On Saturday, the Hangzhou entrepreneur, Jin Zengmin wrote on Sina Weibo: “If the environmental protection bureau chief dares to swim in [Ruian's] river for 20 minutes, I will pay [him] 200,000 yuan.”
He also uploaded several photos of the river, which looked entirely blocked by floating rubbish. Jin accused rubber overshoe factories along the river for dumping industrial waste into the river, and he complained about the environmental bureau’s inaction.
The Cnr.cn report on Monday said some of the rubbish from the river had been picked up and piled onto the shore nearby. Most of the items were disposable cutlery, pieces of wood and plastic bottles.
Bao's colleague, Huang Jinliang, denied Jin’s allegation, saying the bureau had not found any illegal dumping of waste by rubber shoe manufacturers.
Huang said the rubbish in the river comes from people, and not from factories. According to law, the environmental protection bureau is not responsible for dealing with household garbage, Huang said on Monday.
The environmental protection bureau also said it currently had no plans to evaluate river’s pollution in the future.
“Overpopulation of this region is the main reason behind the pollution…[The population] has largely exceeded the local environment’s capacity," Bao told chinanews.com on Sunday.
According to Bao, the Xianjiang area where the river flows has 44,000 residents, but the migrant population amounts to 80,000 alone. Zhejiang province and its many factories draw hundreds of thousands of migrants from across the country every year.
Jin, chief executive of an eyeglasses retailer, said he came up the idea after a trip to his childhood home, Ruian, where he was shocked by the heavily polluted river.
“This river used to be a main traffic route, and villagers used to wash vegetables and clothes here,” Jin told chinanews.com. “It still carries a lot of my childhood memories.”