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Polluting factories in central China sicken farmers: state press

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Oct 15, 2008
Illegal factories pumping arsenic and other chemicals into rivers have left farmers in a heavily populated area of central China with skin problems and failing crops, state press reported on Wednesday.

Thirteen illegal alloy smelting plants in Hubei that defied government efforts to close them down two years ago were finally shut this week, the China Daily reported.

"We removed the plants in 2006, but they came back strong this year," the China Daily quoted Wen Qingsong, deputy head of the Hubei environmental protection bureau, as saying.

"We will investigate how many farmers were affected, who is responsible and whether there was misconduct by local officials."

The China Daily reported that farmers in Hubei's Jianli county, which has a population of 1.5 million people, suffered severe rashes and other skin ailments due to the waste being emitted by the factories.

The factories were illegally discharging arsenic as well as another highly toxic chemical, cadmium, into rivers, with the water then being used on cotton farms and other agricultural land.

"We can only leave the cotton to rot now," farmer Shi Qiang said, according to the China Daily.

"Once we get in the field, we become itchy all over the body. Our skin even swells up and becomes rotten."

Arsenic and cadmium can both cause cancer in humans, as well as other deadly conditions.

Pollution incidents such as the one in Hubei have become a disastrously frequent occurrence in China over the past three decades as the nation's environment has been often sacrificed in the quest for economic growth.

More than 70 percent of China's waterways and 90 percent of its underground water are polluted, according to previously released government figures.

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Defence lawyers threaten to stop Ivory Coast pollution trial
Abidjan (AFP) Oct 9, 2008
The trial of nine people accused over the dumping of toxic waste off Ivory Coast's main city, killing 17 people, faced collapse Thursday as the defence threatened a permanent boycott alleging bias.

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