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Pollution Turns Yellow Sea Into Dead Sea

Posted November. 09, 2005 03:02,   


The city of Cixi, located south of Shanghai, is an industrial complex that provides manufactured goods to nearly 17 million Shanghai residents. As our research team entered the city, the smell of rotten streams stung our noses.

The local residents repeatedly uttered the words “He chuan de Qi wei fei chang chou”, which means, “the smell from the streams stings the nose.” Scattered all over the city, scores of streams, wide and narrow, all share the same color--that of Chinese ink--which is the reason why the residents call them “Chinese ink streams.”

One resident said, “There’s even a tale that a father told his son to take the water straight from the stream to prepare for his Chinese ink for class.” This water flows through the Shanghai open sea to eventually reach the Yellow Sea.

Despite the fact that wastewater from numerous factories flows into the city’s streams, a mere 20 percent of those are equipped with sewage control devices. Even those equipped do not get fully utilized due to the added costs involved.

It has been long since the Yellow Sea has turned into a “dead sea.”

China’s rapid industrialization and increases in city population, paired with reckless shore development projects, have sent a great deal of contaminants to the Yellow Sea by rivers, streams, and air, turning it into a dead sea, devoid of self-purification capabilities.

The water quality near the shores of China is close to a Grade 3, which is the grade of water used for industrial purposes. The number of red tides last year has increased to 96, compared to 22 in 1998.

According to a presentation by Inha University professor Choi Joong-ki (Inha University Department of Oceanography) titled: The Present Status and Marine Pollution of the Yellow Sea, held at a seminar sponsored by the Asan Foundation, 60% of the Korean population is also sending down domestic and industrial wastewater straight into the Yellow Sea.

In March last year, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) accordingly categorized the Yellow Sea as a “dead zone,” together with the Chesapeake Bay in the United States, the Baltic Sea of Scandinavia, the Black Sea of Europe, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Marine pollution has also affected the incomes of fishermen.

Chinese fishermen say that if the owner of a 10-ton fishing boat 10 years ago used to reap in 100,000 RMB (about 15 million won) five years ago, he would be lucky to earn just 30,000 RMB (around 4.5 million won) a year now. Likewise, Korean fishermen who are currently suffering from increasing debts, could earn over 100 million won a year with one small-sized fishing boat (weighing three to five tons) up until 1990.

Jun-Ho Cha Kum-Chun Hwang run-juno@donga.com kchwang@donga.com