China blacklists polluting factories

Feature story - 12 February, 2010
Industries pumping out poisonous substances day after day into rivers that entire communities rely on for their basic water needs - the reality of water pollution in China is one of the country's biggest tragedies.

Greenpeace campaigner takes a waste water sample directly from the outflow pipe of the Qingyuan Top Dragon Textile company.

In this context even a seemingly small step by the Government to blacklist 20 factories in the Guangdong province for failing to meet water discharge standards, is of great significance. Three of the factories on the blacklist were amongst those found to be releasing hazardous chemicals as part of their wastewater discharge in our Poisoning the Pearl report last year.

In 2009, Greenpeace collected and analysed samples of wastewater discharges and sediments from five industrial sites located throughout the Guangdong province that has the Pearl River running through it and is known as the "world's factory floor", accounting for nearly 30 percent of China's exports in 2007. The subsequent results of the sampling and analysis were released in a scientific paper in October 2009.

Warning for blacklisted companies

Out of the five factories that we sampled, three have been put on the government blacklist.

The true extent of this pollution is still an unknown. A problem further exacerbated by inadequate water pollution regulation, allowing factories to discharge wastewaters containing complex cocktails of chemicals capable of causing serious damage to China's rivers and the life in and around them. Detailed report on the Poisoning the Pearl.

However, being blacklisted means greater scrutiny on these companies and their industrial discharges which could in the future translate to deadlines by the government for the companies to stop polluting the Pearl River Delta. This is a warning to the factories and it may also affect the company's financial status in terms of ability to launch a stock market listing or apply for a loan.

We welcome the decision

The government started publishing these lists in 2006 and the important thing to notice is that factories previously blacklisted have improved their performance.

We welcome both the list and the fact that three of the companies we highlighted to the government last year have been included.

Those three companies are Qingyuan Top Dragon, Wing Fung P.C. Board, and Techwise Qingyuan Circuit.

However a final note of caution

Since China's pollution regulations focus largely on conventional pollutants and not toxic chemicals, Greenpeace is urging the government to urgently rework this legislation. The blacklisting is a positive first step, but to seriously combat pollution that causes cancer and sickness, China needs to start monitoring and eliminating hazardous chemical discharges into its rivers.

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