Wednesday, November 23, 2005

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Could be worse... could be in Harbin

Among the things to be thankful for this year -- my family does not live in Harbin, China. David Fickling explains in the Guardian:

Panic was today spreading in Harbin, with officials preparing to cut off water supplies as heavily polluted river water flowed towards the Chinese city.

Residents were storing water supplies in bathtubs and buckets ahead of the expected three-day drought. Supermarkets reported panic buying of water, milk and soft drinks, while Harbin's airport and railway station were jammed with people fleeing the area.

The provincial government was also trucking in water from neighbouring areas, testing little-used local wells and demanding 1,400 tonnes of activated charcoal to purify the water intake after the pollution had passed through the city.

Harbin's authorities warned residents not to even approach the Songhua river because of the risk of pollutants escaping into the atmosphere when the polluted water hits the city around 5am tomorrow. The 50 mile-long stretch of pollution is not expected to flow out of the city until Saturday....

The city, in China's icy north-eastern Heilongjiang province, has a population of 3.8 million and draws most of its water from the Songhua. The river has been contaminated with more than 30 times the usual levels of benzene after an explosion at a chemical plant on its banks.

The blast, in the neighbouring Jilin province, happened on November 13, killing five people and causing 10,000 to be evacuated from the area, officials said.

Benzene, a component of petrol, is highly flammable and toxic. Short-term exposure to the chemical in drinking water can cause long-term damage to the nervous system, while long-term exposure can result in cancer and leukaemia.

Of course, my thanks is tempered by the fact that 3.4 million people do live there.

posted by Dan on 11.23.05 at 04:22 PM


Explain to me again how China is poised to take over the world or whatever.

posted by: Colin on 11.23.05 at 04:22 PM [permalink]

I tried to add this as a "trackback"
[not understanding the principle of "external costs"] ... is perhaps what has lead to the recent environmental catastrophe in China's Harbin province. ...

posted by: Jim on 11.23.05 at 04:22 PM [permalink]

Colin, as the USSR showed, it is quite easy to take over the world with internal disasters like this. As long as they can't vote you out for it, you can leave their priorities on the backburner, addressing them only when they pose a risk to stability

posted by: John Kneeland on 11.23.05 at 04:22 PM [permalink]

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