A river of the city Ningbo, Zhejiang province where previously Greenpeace tested factory waste water.
There was a whiff of irony in the news that Jinko Solar Holding, a Chinese solar panel parts manufacturer, has been accused of releasing toxins into a local river. Yes, we want clean-technology. Yes, we want it now. But when we say we want clean-technology, we really do mean "clean".
Jonathan Watts of The Guardian recently covered a four-day protest in Haining, Zhejiang province, where around 500 agitated villagers "overturned cars and stormed the compound of a photovoltaic manufacturer that is accused of releasing toxins into a local river."
Although solar is seen as clean energy in terms of carbon emissions, the production of many components is energy intensive and polluting. Toxic discharges from the factory killed large numbers of fish and regulators have previously ordered the company to suspend operations, according to the domestic media.
Chen Hongming, deputy head of Haining's environmental protection bureau, told the Xinhua news agency that the plant has failed to meet pollution standards since April despite official warnings.
The clash highlights the difficulty that China faces as it tries to clean up its environment, reduce its reliance on coal and secure "clean tech" export business. The country is the world's biggest manufacturer of solar panels with about 70% of the global market, but overseas rivals say this dominant position has been achieved through unfair subsidies, low wages and lax environmental regulation.
Increasingly, however, Chinese citizens are uneasy about the consequences of pollution in all industries. As incomes levels and environmental awareness rise, there is a growing reluctance to accept dirty growth. Last month, the Dalian city government promised to halt a planned paraxylene (PX) plant after a rally by tens of thousands of people. In recent years, there have also been several violent demonstrations against battery factories and smelting facilities that are blamed for unhealthy levels of lead in the blood of children in some area. Many other smaller protests in the countryside go largely unreported.
These recents protests parallel Greenpeace's work in Yunnan province where we tested the nearby soil and water of a 140,000 ton chromium waste pile that was being poorly managed by a Chinese chemical company. Some levels of hexavalent chromium (chromium VI) were so high it exceeded the limits of the on-site tester.
Our "detox" campaign also calls on some of the world's biggest brands to remove hazardous chemicals from their entire production line.
The poisoned rivers, choking smog-filled air, greasy oil spills, prolonged droughts, failed crops and dead livestock that we see in China is the ugly underbelly of the nation's brilliant double digit economic growth. And increasingly the local people are realising it is they who are paying too great a cost.