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rosenthal_pollution_victims - WARNING CONCERNING COPYRIGHT...

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Unformatted text preview: WARNING CONCERNING COPYRIGHT RESTRICTIONS: The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproduction of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions isthat the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used for any purpose other thanprivate study, scholarship, or research. If electronic transmission of reserve material is used for purposes in excess of what constitutes “fair use”, that user may be liable for copyright infringement. .--.-~.vr—r——.v |l\l Pollution Victims Start to Fight Back in China By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL HUAIROU, China — The nadir of Zhang J inhu’s career occurred in the fall, when thousands of his ducks unsteadily waddled out of the nearby river with singed feathers and burned feet, betame paralyzed and died. A prosperous farmer with a flock of 4,000 birds here on the northern outskirts of Beijing, Mr. Zhang had weathered the sporadic deaths of some ducks from caustic river water over the last few years. But he was not used to this sort of prolonged carnage, which culminated one day in September, when several hundred of his ducks died. . Frustrated, Mr. Zhang did what very few Chinese have done. He sued an upstream business for compensa- tion, adding to a small but growing number of environmental suits by pollution victims that may become test cases. No one doubts that pollution in the sudsy green river killed the ducks. But in this relatively poor and ex- tremely polluted country, there is often no simple remedy for the mil- lions of people such as Mr. Zhang whose livelihoods have been de- stroyed by pollution. Though China has enacted strict antipollution laws in the last decade, enforcement is still lax in mahy places. Flagrant violations occur without so any seri- ous investigation. After local government agencies .,,.*. 1 Mark Leong/Matrlx, {or The New York Times Zhang Jinhu, who says pollution in a river near Beijing killed hundreds of his ducks, has turned to raising quail. He is suing for compensation. gave him little satisfaction in the duck deaths, which he calculates cost him $12,000, Mr. Zhang turned to a new legal-aid center in Beijing. “The deputy chief of the local envi- ronmental protection bureau came and said they were powerless to cor- rect it unless we could isolate the source of the pollution,” Mr. Zhang said as he chain-smoked in the tin- WWWJ’ROHLESAN'DOON’IOURSDOM ‘ 112-881- , 4100' Everything About Plastic Surgery. Board Certified Surgeons. Free Consultation. Before & Afler Pictures— ADVT. roof shack that he built on the river- bank. He said he believed that he knew the culprit, chemicals from an upstream pig farm. “But I’m just a farmer. How can I do that? There are lots of things that dump waste water into this river, mostly in the middle of the night.” Wang Canfa, who opened the legal- aid office, the Center for Legal As- sistance to Pollution Victims, in thr fall, said, “China has many laws ar Continued on Page All WW 37/6/00 China Pollution Victims Starting to Fight Back Continued From Page Al regulations regarding the environ- ment, but the situation just gets worse, because they are often not implemented." The legal-aid center, the first in China to focus on pollu- tion. is affiliated with the Law and Politics University in Beijing. China’s rivers are some of the dirtiest in the world. An aggressive central government campaign to identify and punish polluters has made a big differencein some cities and in other places where it has focused. But it has failed to penetrate fully the vast rural areas, where antipollution laws are often blithely ignored by local enterprises. The police are often reluctant to prosecute such businesses because they are cornerstones of local econo— mies and. in many cases, are owned by local governments. Also, inquiries are often prohibitively expensive for local agencies and politically compli- cated, because the pollution sources may be in other jurisdictions. Those who suffer the most are often individuals who are frequently unaware of the hazards and their rights. “They don't understand the law or how to go about getting the problem solved," Mr. Wang said. "So polluters are not afraid, and they keep skirting the law." For three months, the news media have reported many cases of serious unchecked water pollution. In cen- tral Anhui Province, a spill devastat- ed fish along a l5—mile stretch of the. Haozhouguo River, destroying the livelihoods of 179 families. In Leshan, Sichuan Province, in the southwest, extensive fish deaths along 135 miles of the Minjiang River followed a chemical spill. No suits have been filed and no compensation paid. A sudsy green river CHINA Yangtze Mlniiang River River Th: New York Times in Huairou apparently killed many ducks. Against that backdrop, the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Vic-' tims is receiving more than 100 calls a month, mostly from workers and farmers who have read the newspa- ‘per advertisements of the center. Mr. Zhang, the duck tanner, was among the first to call. Mr. Zhang said many farmers had been economically devastated by the river pollution that peaked in fall. They complained but felt that they contaminants. When Mr. Zhang built his ram- shackle complex of huts and pens to raise ducks, it was on a bank of a river 200 feet wide. Today, the river snakes a narrow winding path down the middle of a vast sandy bed. As a child, Mr. Zhang used to swim and bathe in the river, a tributary of the Chaobai. Five years ago, he said, a fisherman could catch 300 pounds of fish a day. But in the last year, the fish and river grass have died. So do If I'. . cows and pigs if th water. “If people g ey get covered with scabs," 3 said. In recent years, th eminent has ackno lems with law enforc and has buttressed its ins system, particularly along major rivers. Nationwide, cement division has grown to its current 30,000 ins ‘th plans to expand to 40,000 or by 2002. In 1998, 39,754 pollutte penal- ized, mostly through In addi- tion, the Environme'otection Administration toolcases to court and obtained dictions. “We’ve strengtheienforce- ment to make sure tat stand- ards," the deputy f the en- vironmental ins ' sion division in thestration, Chen Shanrons, sai But he added, “W 8 along way to go." Although such ef e helped control industrial in some places, they hav ad little effect on situation Zhang's, a disaster in a smiyith lacal effects, where theed pollut- ers are small connat enjoy good relations witlficials. Under Chinese lbnmental protection is primlresponsi- bility of local aul with the national adminisbroviding just backup suppChen ac- ___,____________—-—-—_—:-———.____._ W I THE NEW YORK TIMES IN ERNATIONAL TUESDAY, MAY 16 2000 . ; a polluted stream in Huairou, China, but they won’t let the sheep drink the water knowledged that there were “ officials who, in order to follow {32$ own interests, don’t cooperate." The fledgling pollution-control ef- forts have largely focused on indus- trial polluters, and government agencies are only starting to look at agricultural wastes like the chemi- cals that Mr. Zhang believes killed his ducks. Such chemicals can be harder to monitor, because they en- ter the water through seepage not by obVious effluent pipes. ' When Mr. Zhang's ducks started dying, he unsuccessfully appealed to every local agency he thought might be inclined to help, the local govem- ment. the county environmental pro— tection bureau and even the township women's organization. 'He carried duck carcasses to the local fish and Wildlife office for'autopsies. He and other farmers in the area have focused their attention on the pig farm, because ducks upstream had no problem in the fall while duIcks downstream died en masse. n response to Mr. Zhan ‘s workers from the local envgimrfiiiazr: tal protection bureau arrived and tested the river water and found it highly alkaline. But they went no further in determining the nature of the pollution or its source. ”We haven’t even been able to figure out who owns the pig farm " Mr. ahang said. “I don’t think any- one investigated really." m.» -. . mlflurix. m’l'heNewYui-knmq Mr. Wang, the lawyer, said th the farm was partly owned by ti: government of an upstream village and that the Huairou environmental protection bureau had “taken up some, but not all" the issues. .It is highly unlikely to do more Without ‘further pressure, he said, adding: ‘I.ocal businesses pay taxes and are big employers. So local gov- ernments need them and'are reluc- tag; to vclose them down." ' r. ang has great hope that suits like Mr. Zhang’s will change that, creating new incentives to fight pol- lution “If they knew that victims might claim compensadon, that' would bring huge pressure on pollut- ers, who would have to start paying a 5;? for their actions,” Mr. Wang Still, he added, it would be a hard battle. because such suits are rela- tively new in China Mr. Zhans'S case Will be first heard in a local court here. But it can be appealed to a higher court in Beijing For now, Mr. Zhang’s neighbors who lost ducks are. watching and say they will file their own suits if he su6ceeds. Mr Zhang is not holding his breath. ' “I’ve sold the 200 ducks that re- mained," he said, wandering through empty pens to a smelly shack fitted With floor-to-ceilins 03395. home to $5 nivlvl bird business. “I’ve switched on ' 5,” he said. "It's saf never go near water." er. They ...
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