Jin Zengmin, a Zhejiang entrepreneur is offering a Chinese senior government official 200,000 yuan in exchange for swimming 20 minutes in a heavily polluted river, in an effort to bring light to the issue of pollution in China.
The stunt also seeks to demonstrate the Chinese people’s plight when it comes to the state of their environment as whole. However, in a pleasant turn of events, the Chinese government, both at the local and federal level, are responding to their constituents difficulties rather than ignoring it as they once might have done.
“If the environmental protection bureau chief dares to swim in [Ruian's] river for 20 minutes, I will pay 200,000 yuan ($246,000),” Jin wrote on Sina Weibo, China’s twitter-like website.
He followed that challenge with three photos of a river in Ruian, completely blocked by what Jin believes to be industrial waste dumped by a rubber overshoe factory. According to him, factory owners in the area have told him that the industrial waste is dumped directly into the river without processing.
Not only does the polluted water make it impossible for the residents of Ruian to wash vegetables or clothes as they once did in the river, but also is believed to be the leading cause for cancer among residents living near the river.
"In 2012, 17 villagers died of cancer in my village, which has only a population of some 1,000 people. I suspect the industrial waste containing carcinogenic substance is the reason behind the high prevalence of the disease among villagers," Jin said.
According to the Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Bao Zhenmin, however, the cause of the pollution is not the surrounding factories, but rather is overpopulation and people throwing their garbage into the river.
Bao, however, has vowed to establish a new sewage treatment plant and hopes to set up a wastewater collection system within the next three years.
Similarly, fury over water pollution has been growing in the Shandong Province of China as an online campaign sparked accusations against factories in Weifang for pumping their waste underground.
The Shandong provincial department of environmental protection announced that dumping waste underground is a serious and punishable violation of law, also offering 100,000 yuan ($16,050) for information that is found to be true on factories violating the regulations.
The government has already made strides in finding the truth behind these allegations of pollution, investigating 715 companies already. So far, the web reports regarding pollution have been found to be untrue.
A spending plan to counter pollution – both air and water – was issued last year by the State Council. This included a 10 year plan to curb groundwater pollution that is causing the tap water to become toxic and un-drinkable, while causing a number of fatal diseases including cancer. By 2015, the government is expected to control groundwater pollution by establishing monitoring systems and by 2020, monitoring systems for other sources of pollution such as garbage and industrial waste should also be set up.
Regardless of the findings, it is notable that the internet has become a major vehicle of change for the Chinese as they continue to use it to counter pollution in their country. In response to the public outcry that is more prominent now through the internet, it is pleasantly surprising to see that local authorities, such as that of the Shandong province, have begun to respond to reports of pollution – and the Chinese people’s plight in general – rather than ignoring it.