Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Russia Battles Toxic Waste From China

Russia has complained of an environmental disaster making its way down rivers it shares with China. Thousands of barrels of toxic waste have been dumped by factories in China into rivers that go into Russia. Russia Today reports as follows.

"Containers of an explosive liquid from a chemical plant in northern China have been washed into a river. If the chemical leaks, it may cause an environmental disaster both in China and Russia.
The barrels, numbering at least 3,000, contain liquefied methyl chloride – a toxic and highly-flammable gas."
The recent dump of 3000 barrels of toxic waste is not an infrequentent occurrence. China's standards of environmental protection are piecemeal and poorly enforced. notes that the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ministry of Environment of China signed a memorandum in 2008 to protect water quality in the rivers Amur, Ussuri, Argun, Razdolnaya and Lake Hanka. This agreement unfortunately only deals with incidents after the fact as they occur. It does nothing to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Europe and the US are decades ahead of China in dealing with pollution. There are many Chinese cities with air that gives citizens the daily equivalent of a heavy smoking habit. America and Europe could assist China in controlling its industrial pollution. Instead, current government policy under the Obama administration is to promote the Kyoto Treaty and other regulations that would cripple US industry with regulations that would do little to curb pollution.
China's reckless attitude towards the environment is hurting its neighbours. It has come a long way since the 1940's, when it was a mostly agrarian nation. With prosperity comes responsibility. It is time for environmental activists to look where pollution is really coming from and adjust their focus accordingly. If the US economy is healthy, it can capitalise efforts to make China and other new industrial powers more green than they currently are. We worry as individuals about second hand smoke and poisoning our neighbours. It is time for China to share this concern as well.
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