The mayor of Shaoxing said he is prepared to swim in a moat surrounding the city to show it is not polluted, the Qianjiang Evening News reported on Thursday.
Qian Jianmin appears to be the first official willing to take up a challenge laid down last month by residents of several other cities of the coastal Zhejiang province who announced on a microblogging website that they would offer environmental officials as much as 300,000 yuan if they swam in polluted rivers.
“I will swim in any part of the moat surrounding Shaoxing city,” the report quoted Qian as saying. He made the remarks during a media conference at China’s annual parliament session on Wednesday. Wenzhou mayor Chen Jinbao weighed into the debate, saying he was pleased to hear about the swimming challenge because it showed people were monitoring the conduct of public officials. Chen said it also reflected public concern about environmental issues, the newspaper reported.
Zhejiang governor Li Qiang was asked to comment on the issue on Thursday. Li admitted there was still long way to go “before people can swim in every part of the moat”. Li told Today Morning Express: “[This] reminds us not only to focus on quantitative data about environmental protection, but also on people’s perceptions.”
The latest remarks contrast with the relatively poor initial response on the issue from officials. In the days after the first challenge was made, government environmental authorities claimed pollutants in rivers came from public – not from factories.
Last month the media reported that a villager had accused local officials of harassing him after complaining about water pollution. A local government spokesman did not elaborate when approached by SCMP.com.
The case highlights mainlanders’ growing concerns over water pollution. Recently, a state television programme revealed that 60 per cent of Chinese rivers were “severely polluted.”
Meanwhile, some environmental activists have urged people to take photos of polluted rivers and publish them on Sina Weibo, a Chinese website similar to twitter, in a bid to raise public awareness on environmental issues and protest against slack officials.