Greenpeace has called the Pearl one of the worst polluted waterways in the World.
China is a country of overwhelming growth and industry. It is a country where you can see a city spring up in just a few years where previously stood fields of rice paddies and villagers. Everyone is working, busy and industrious and the RiverBlue team found it to be quite a juxtaposition to India.
In the north, the RiverBlue team travelled to Guilin, a city of incredible beauty amongst Karst topography, mountains that are formed from limestone. The team went there to visit the Li River. Mark paddled in a section of this river, considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Both villagers and wildlife prosper from this magnificent river.
From the beauty of the Li River, the RiverBlue team ventured downstream to Xiantang, the blue jeans capital of the world and home of the Pearl River Delta. Greenpeace has called the Pearl one of the worst polluted waterways in the World. As the global center for manufacturing, China’s production of cheap apparel has clothed the world. Xiantang produces approximately 300 million pairs of jeans per year, roughly equivalent to 40 percent of the jeans sold in the US annually.
The manufacture of jeans illustrates some of the most visible and gross pollution caused by China’s textile and clothing industry. Factories are located along the river that flow into the Pearl River Delta. The river was once pristine, but has since become a black ditch dividing the village of Xizhou from the industrial zone. The Xizhou villagers say that when the factory discharges are severe, the river water is not merely polluted, but toxic. Though villagers once fished in the river and drank its water, they now dare to do neither of these things, and must pay for tap water.
The water quality has deteriorated sharply since the region’s remarkable economic growth began in the late 1970s, with more than 60% of its waterways now designated as ‘polluted’.
While in this area, the RiverBlue team met with a fisherman and his wife who took them out on the river and showed them how they made a living. Though they could no longer fish, as the fish had long been fished out and could no longer tolerate the toxicity of the water, the fisherman and his wife dredged the bottom of the river pulling up the muck of discarded textiles and denim from the black/blue water which they sifted through to find worms. They dried these worms, which were then sold to be processed into fish food to the North American market.
The RiverBlue team spoke with Ma Jun and representatives from Greenpeace, such as Tianjie Ma, who have carried out sampling on the Pearl River. Their findings indicates that the chemicals in the river include persistent and bioaccumative hormone disruptors that pose long-term threats to the environment and to human health. The Pearl River basin also serves as a source of drinking water for the region’s 47 million inhabitants, including the populations of Guangzhou and Hong Kong. The water quality has deteriorated sharply since the region’s remarkable economic growth began in the late 1970s, with more than 60% of its waterways now designated as ‘polluted’.