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Industries polluting Taihu Lake in Jiangsu, China

It's not only climate or rainfall change; industries are also responsible for contamination of water bodies and death of aquatic life.


The city of Wuxi, in east China’s Jiangsu province, was hit by a serious ecological disaster [on 28 May 2007]. A large bloom of blue-green algae in Taihu Lake caused water quality to deteriorate severely. Despite the local water department’s attempts at mitigating the crisis, the water supply to a great number of households was contaminated, the water becoming putrid and very unpleasant to drink. [...] Taihu Lake has suffered from low water levels this year, and the weather has been hot – with little rain -- all of which will have contributed to the algae bloom. However, the local government announced that, “the water quality problem is in no way caused by manufacturing or any other human activity,” when in fact there were local factors causing the algae bloom. The serious eutrophication of Taihu Lake was caused by the great volume of pollutants discharged into the water [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Industries polluting Taihu Lake in Jiangsu, China
State or province:Jiangsu
Location of conflict:Wuxi
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Manufacturing activities
Specific commodities:toxic waste from industrial waste, urban sewage and chemical fertilisers
Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:2000000 residents in Wuxi deprived of clean tap water for 5 days [2]
Start of the conflict:28/05/2007
Relevant government actors:Wuxi municipal government, the Jiangsu provincial government, the Ministry of Environmental Protection (formerly SEPA), Taihu Basin Agency
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network; Ma Jun, Director of the Institute of Public and Environment Affairs; Zhu Guangwei, a biochemist at Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGLAS); Qin Boqiang, NIGLAS ecologist ; other NIGLAS scientists; 清华大学水质科学与工程研究所所长张晓健 (Zhang Xiaojiang, Director of the Institute for Water Quality Engineering at Tsinghua University) [4]
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination
Health ImpactsPotential: Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Four years later, a campaign to restore Taihu is showing results. [...] Restoring Taihu to a truly healthy state, however, will be a steeper challenge. [...] The central government, through its Ministry of Environmental Protection, plans to allot $155 million over the next 5 years to clean up Taihu. The ministry is now drafting a work plan. But the challenge, says Qin, will be to pinpoint sources of nitrogen and phosphorous to better stem their flow into the lake [3].
Sources and Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[4] 无锡72小时自来水危机处理实录
[click to view]

[1] Disaster in Taihu Lake
[click to view]

[2] Taihu: Green Wash or Green Clean?
[click to view]

[3] On Lake Taihu, China Moves To Battle Massive Algae Blooms
[click to view]

China dialogue, "Long struggle for a cleaner Lake Tai"
[click to view]

Other documents

Contaminated waters and dead fish Source:
[click to view]

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Last update27/02/2018
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