02/18/2013, 00.00
CHINA

A challenge to the Party: 25 thousand Euro to swim in a polluted river

An entrepreneur from Zhejiang offers a reward to the head of the environmental protection agency, who instead of providing answers blames overpopulation for being the "real cause of local pollution." Meanwhile, smog returns to choke Beijing: flights cancelled and highways closed.

Hangzhou (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A businessman from the wealthy eastern province of Zhejiang has offered 200 thousand Yuan (almost 25 thousand euro) to a senior official of the local Communist Party, if he swims for 20 minutes in the highly polluted river in the town of Ruian. Jin Zengmin, director general of the Hangzhou eyeglasses company, launched his challenge on the micro-blogging site Weibo.

The entrepreneur has also uploaded 3 photos of the river, completely covered with floating garbage. According to Jia, the fault lies with a shoe factory that discharges its waste into the river where - as told Chinanews.com - "during my childhood villagers used to wash vegetables and clothes in his childhood." Another entrepreneur, from Shandong, offered 100 thousand Yuan for "useful information" about a "suspicious" case of pollution.

Ruian's environmental protection bureau chief, Bao Zhenmin, has not responded to the proposal to swim in the river, instead he has accused the local people: " Overpopulation of this region is the main reason behind the pollution...[The population] has largely exceeded the local environment's capacity. " For officials, the polluted area has 44 thousand official residents "but the migrant population amounts to 80,000 alone."

Pollution, along with the corruption, remains the major challenge for Chinese Communist Party. The policies of the past decade launched by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have proved unsuccessful in limiting the phenomenon, which threatens the health of the population and the environment.

The fact is that the government wants to maintain the pace of economic growth of recent years, but can not stop industrial overproduction, which is the leading cause of an excessive pollution. The new leader Xi Jinping - who takes office next March - has acknowledged the problem but has not yet announced any strategy to deal with it.

Meanwhile, poor air quality is still a major issue. After 21 days of smog that paralyzed Beijing in January, the alarm bells were once again sounded yesterday. Visibility in the capital has decreased to a margin of less than 500 meters, so much so, that authorities have been forced to close highways and cancel several flights. Meanwhile, cases of "Beijing cough" still abound, a term coined to indicate respiratory diseases that affect the city's residents, especially children.

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