Environment tribunals hammer polluters with legal accountability

16:48, July 15, 2010      

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Three years ago, the water in Hongfeng Lake, in southwest China's Guizhou Province, was undrinkable.

The seepage from 3 million tonnes of chemical waste piled up over decades by the shores of the lake had turned it into a toxic mess.

Hongfeng Lake is the drinking water source of more than 3.6 million residents of Guiyang, the provincial capital, but it seemed that nothing could be done to clean it up.

"Three years ago, people would become sick if they drank water in this lake," He Xiaoyi, a tourist guide tells visitors as she drinks directly from its waters.

The provincial environmental protection department had handed down about 10 administrative orders to demand the main polluter, Tianfeng Chemicals Co. Ltd., which is located in Anshui City, to suspend production.

The suspension orders, if executed, would have left thousands of Tianfeng workers without stable incomes. They besieged the offices of the municipal government and blocked traffic on the city's major roads in protest.

The Anshui city government, which also opposed suspension because the plant was a major contributor to the local economy, asked the provincial government to stop the administrative orders. The provincial government, with social stability as its top concern, complied.

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