Fac­tory own­ers lead moves to clean wa­ter­ways

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By YAN YIQI in Hangzhou yany­iqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A group of swim­mers, brav­ing chilly con­di­tions, jumped into the Donghe River in Rui’an, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, on Mon­day.

Their rea­son for mak­ing a splash? Not to show their ath­leti­cism but rather to make an en­vi­ron­men­tal point.

The 50 or so swim­mers own and run rub­ber-shoe fac­to­ries in Xian­jiang town­ship that have been blamed in the past for pol­lut­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

Yang Yuguang, chair­man of Zhe­jiang An­bang Shoes, said the qual­ity of the river is bet­ter than he had imag­ined.

“The wa­ter is clear and is much bet­ter than be­fore,” he said. “We swam for more than 600 me­ters, and it felt good.”

The 42-year-old said he thought it had been more than 20 years since people swam in the river.

“Ev­ery­one blamed our fac­to­ries for caus­ing the pol­lu­tion. I can­not deny that in the past decade we harmed the en­vi­ron­ment. How­ever, I also would like people to wit­ness the changes we have made,” he said.

Rui’an has the big­gest clus­ter of rub­ber-shoe-mak­ing fac­to­ries in the coun­try with more than 1,000 fac­to­ries ac­count­ing for al­most 60 per­cent of the do­mes­tic mar­ket share.

Ye Mingzhe, gen­eral man­ager of Rui’an Fuy­imei Shoe In­dus­try Co, said there was a time when no­body cared about en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

“Five years ago, the river was a to­tal mess, with black­ish wa­ter. It was smelly, with all types of rubbish float­ing on it,” Ye said.

The prob­lem was not taken se­ri­ously un­til an en­tre­pre­neur posted a no­tice in so­cial me­dia.

Last Fe­bru­ary, Jin Zeng­min, chair­man of Hangzhou’s Maoyuan­chang Eye­glass Co, of­fered 200,000 yuan ($32,000) to any lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion of­fi­cial in Rui’an will­ing to swim in a filthy lo­cal river for more than 20 min­utes.

Jin’s post aroused na­tional at­ten­tion. “Invit­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal-pro­tec­tion of­fi­cials to swim in lo­cal rivers” be­came a pop­u­lar catch­phrase for Chi­nese people.

Last year alone, the town­ship spent more than 20 mil­lion yuan on en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, most of the money com­ing from lo­cal en­trepreneurs.

Ye said as lo­cal res­i­dents they had an obli­ga­tion to make their home­town a bet­ter place.

“In the past, we lacked aware­ness and a thor­ough gov­ern­men­tal plan. Now we have both.’’

Ye’s com­pany con­trib­uted more than 200,000 yuan last year to help­ing the lo­cal govern­ment clean rivers.

Chen Xue, deputy Party chief of the town­ship, told Wen­zhou Daily that 18 rivers have been cleaned in the last year or so.

“The qual­ity of the wa­ter is tested once a quar­ter, and the stan­dards will be main­tained,” Chen was quoted as say­ing.

Xia Bao­long, Party chief of the prov­ince, said dur­ing a provin­cial eco­nomic meet­ing on Dec 27 that one of the key mis­sions of the prov­ince in the com­ing years is to elim­i­nate wa­ter pol­lu­tion.

The prov­ince will spend 68 bil­lion yuan in man­ag­ing pol­luted wa­ter­ways, start­ing from this year, Xia said.

ZHAO YONG / FOR CHINA DAILY

More than 50 bosses from fac­to­ries that pro­duce rub­ber shoes take a dip in a river in Rui’an, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, on Mon­day to raise aware­ness of the en­vi­ron­ment and high­light their ef­forts to re­duce pol­lu­tion gen­er­ated by their man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions.

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