The Handan ‘Cover Up’

by China Water Risk 9 January, 2013

7 January 2013-A toxic spill in Shanxi was uncovered when Handan, a city in Hebei suspended water supplies. Around 39 tonnes of aniline were leaked by Tianji Coal Chemical Industry’s Changzhi chemical plant in Shanxi:

  • ~9 tonnes went into the Zhuozhang River
  • ~30 tonnes into a disused reservoir
  • ~720 times the accepted level of aniline was found in water samples taken near Shanxi and Hebei borders

The ‘Cover Up’

What’s worse is that the incident, first discovered on New Year’s Eve was not made public until  January 5, 2013 when officials where questioned over why Handan city further downstream in Hebei their suspended water supplies, prompting accusations of a ‘cover up’

Wang Yiping, propaganda official with the Changzhi government denied there had been a cover-up, “it is not necessary to report to any body, including the provincial government, as long as the pollutants have not yet spread to regions out of our jurisdiction.”

“The big problem is again the covering up” says Ma Jun to the Times on the incident. The denial and delayed reporting goes against the citizens’ expectations given increasing awareness on pollution and disclosure.

Read more on pollution:

Read more on disclosure:

  • Review of corporate action regarding water risks in Sink or Swim
  • Our interview with Marcus Norton, Head of Water and Investor Initiatives, CDP Water Disclosure Project on water risks in the supply chain and sectors at risk


40 years of Environmental Protection in China …

At a conference discussing “40 years of Environmental Protection in China” hosted  by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Wang Jinnan, deputy director at the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, expressed pessimistic views recently on China’s pollution. “While it is fair to say that some traditional pollutants, such as sulphur dioxide, have been put under control, other problems which pose even greater health risks to the public have yet to gain policymakers’ attention” said Wang. He predicts that “China’s pollution problem has yet to reach a peak.”

“China’s pollution problem has yet to reach a peak.”

Wang Jinnan, deputy director at the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning

A key reason cited in the discussions for the slow progress in pollution disclosure and action is that  environment protection has been sacrificed for GDP growth. However with rising awareness, increasing NGO pressure and protests facilitated by social media, this trend may change.



More on Rise of NGO & Protests:

Further Reading