Chemical Plants Pose Environmental Hazards in China’s Earthquake Disaster Zone

Feature Story - 2008-05-21
In response to the Sichuan earthquake, Greenpeace has sent a research team to the disaster zone to identify and monitor possible environmental problems triggered by the earthquake. Our team discovered at least one chemical factory within the disaster zone that is still operating despite the government’s call for all chemical production to cease. These illicit factories pose a huge risk not only to the environment but also to disaster victims seeking shelter within the vicinity.

Sichuan research team member Yue Yihua speaks with the manager of a chemical plant located within the earthquake disaster zone

Toxics campaigner Yue Yihua speaks from the disaster zone:

"In the past few days, we visited the worst-hit areas, including Dujiangyan, Qingbaijiang, and Shifang, to examine the chemical plants in those regions.

We are glad to see that most chemical factories have heeded the call for suspension of production by the State Administration of Work Safety. For example, we visited an aluminium sulphate factory which had ceased production. We found out from the factory manager that people from the Ministry of Environmental Protection had already visited in the past few days and that sulphur reserves in the factory are quite low. The boiler broke down during the earthquake so there is no threat of an explosion.

However, we saw disaster victims setting up camp around the building. Amongst them were elderly people and children. These refugees had been drinking untreated water from a well behind the factory before they had any access to relief supplies.

The government needs to step up efforts to spread awareness amongst disaster victims of the potential dangers of seeking shelter around these chemical plants. Enforcement of the chemical production ban must also be strengthened as we have discovered at least one other chemical factory which is secretly operating. We have notified the Ministry of Environmental Protection about such illicit operations."