BEIJING (AFP) – 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.
A farmer tends to his crop at his farm near the town of Jianli in central China’s Hubei province. Illegal factories pumping arsenic and other chemicals into rivers have left farmers in Jianli and other areas of central China with skin problems and failing crops, state press reported on Wednesday.(AFP/File)
Thirteen illegal alloy smelting plants in Hubei that defied government efforts to close them down two years ago were finally shut this week, thereported.
“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 otherdue 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 inover 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.
Tainted China water sickens 450