For the past 10 years, a Nanjing man has knowingly polluted the local river environment on an ongoing basis with chemicals that can lead to cancer and physical deformities in humans.
The man, surnamed Wang, was a self-employed businessman but one without the necessary permits to handle the disposal of chemical waste. Instead, he systematically discharged toxic waste into drains and rivers near his home in Nanjing.
The waste was the liquid left over from the extraction of silver from fixer solutions used to treat photographic film. Containing aniline, bromine, sulfide and silver, the liquid has the potential to cause deformities and bring on cancer, in the case of long term exposure. Wang had been discharging the waste into the aquaducts of Nanjing since 2007.
With silver trading at an average of US$0.65 per gram between 2007 and 2017, and 1 litre of liquid netting in the area of 2-4 grams of silver, Wang’s disposal of some 200 tons of the waste conceivably brought him approximately ¥2.4 million.
The Nanjing’s Xuanwu District People’s Court responded in kind, seeing fit to fine Wang ¥1.94 million in fines and costs associated with damage to the environment.
The adjudicating court also inferred the studios that contracted Wang’s services should also be held accountable, for failing to ascertain that he held the necessary business license to collect and process such waste.
Wang’s fines are timely, with the Reuters international news agency also reporting this week on China’s pledge to clean up 90 percent of its farmland by 2020, a promise made by environment minister Li Ganjie.
As a result of China’s pace of development over the past 30 years, a survey revealed in 2013 that an area of China’s land equal in size to that of Belgium was unfit for growing crops. The State followed up with its campaign to clean up the country’s water, land and air. While there are those that question some of the arguably bold claims in certain areas, tangible results have been achieved. Here in Nanjing for example, PM2.5 levels have fallen significantly for the past two consecutive years.
Minister Li has also pledged to successfully tackle the issue of drinking water, claiming that the ambition to make 80 percent of water fit for human consumption is achievable.