A journalist takes a sample of the red polluted water in the Jianhe River in Luoyang, Henan province in December 2011. The sources of the pollution are two illegal chemical plants discharging their production waste water into the rain sewer pipes. Photograph: China Daily/Reuters
Widespread outrage against China's environmental issues that began when Beijing's air pollution hit record levels last month has spread to encompass another major public health threat: water pollution.
Last week, an eyeglass-retailer executive from Rui'an City, coastal Zhejiang province, offered the city's environmental protection chief Bao Zhenming more than £20,000 to take a 20-minute dip in a highly polluted local river. The entrepreneur, Jin Zengmin, posted the dare to his microblog beneath pictures showing the waterway overflowing with discarded aluminum cans, polystyrene boxes and paper lanterns. He blamed the river's industrial demise on dumping by a local rubber shoe factory.
The Rui'an government responded by saying that most of the river's pollution was caused by individuals, not factories, and could be attributed to overpopulation. Bao has since declined the offer.
"Finally this issue has aroused the attention of the general public," said Ma Jun, head of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. "Although it's going to take a long time , now we have seen a starting point."