"Without water supply, my bathhouse has closed since November
22, causing me a daily loss of some 7,000 yuan," Hu Yanhong, owner
of Qingming Public Bath in Harbin City, told China Economic
Times on November 29, and she has gone to Saver Law Firm in
Heilongjiang Province to seek legal advice.
"Actually, a lot of restaurants, public bathhouses
and car wash stations, which were affected the most by the Songhua
River pollution, have sent their complaints to us," Liu Hongpu, a
lawyer from the firm, told the paper. "We've already set about
handling these cases."
A blast at a chemical plant of Jilin Petrochemical
Company under China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) on November 13
sent an 80-kilometer-long slick of benzene into the Songhua River,
which flows through Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.
"In the short and long run, the pollution will
bring incalculable losses to Harbin, Heilongjiang and the whole
river basin," Professor Lü Bingnan of Harbin Institute of
Technology (HIT) said on December 1.
"Both the Law on Prevention and Control of Water
Pollution and Environmental Protection Law explicitly prescribe
that any pollution victims, individual or department, have the
right to claim indemnity, and polluters must pay for the loss
incurred," said Hu Fengbin, director of the Beijing-based Saverbj
Law Firm, belonging along with Heilongjiang's Saver Law Firm to the
same Saver Legal Group.
Zhang Lijun, deputy director of the State
Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), told a press
conference in Beijing on November 24 that the chemical plant where
the explosion occurred should be held responsible for the pollution
of Songhua River.
"However, our initial investigation found that the
plant didn't register at the local administrative bureau for
industry and commerce. Thus we're preparing to sue the Jilin
Petrochemical Company, or even CNPC," Hu Fengbin said in an
interview with China Economic Times on November 29.
Previously, Zhang Zuoji, governor of Heilongjiang,
said his province suffered heavily from the river pollution. The
accident forced Harbin to suspend water supply from November 22 to
27 because of contamination. During that period, 29 industrial
enterprises in the city stopped production and 23 reduced
production, leading to a daily loss in output value of nearly 100
In addition, the unexpected incident cost the
government financial and material resources in quantity. For
instance, Zhang took 10 million yuan from his governor's fund to
control pollution, and the government also allocated funds for
purchase of activated carbon to upgrade water filtration systems
and for evaluation of environment after the polluted water passed
by. The province's tourism and its reputation for producing
environmentally friendly food were adversely affected too.
Chen Jinsong, a researcher with the development and
research center of Heilongjiang provincial government, estimated
that at present the direct loss brought about by the accident might
amount to some 1.5 billion yuan, according to a December 1 report
carried by China Economic Times. And Harbin's tourism is
expected to lose 5 billion yuan or so in this season, he said.
In an interview with the paper on November 29, Meng
Fanxu, president of Heilongjiang's Lawyers' Association, said
though a comprehensive investigation hasn't been made, this can be
regarded as a typical tort case resulting from river pollution.
Jilin Petrochemical Company should be held responsible for
inconveniency and economic losses inflicted upon residents and
enterprises on the lower reaches.
According to law, affected individual families,
enterprises and Harbin municipal government are legitimate in
litigating against any negligent parties and claiming damages, Meng
His view was echoed by Wang Qingyun, head of
Jurisprudence Institute in Heilongjiang.
The amount to claim for is not hard to be affirmed,
Wang said. "Purchase of activated carbon and allocation of
governor's fund are both clear evidence for the local government's
expenditure in controlling pollution. It's even easier to determine
the damages individual families and enterprises sustained from
Jilin Petrochemical Company has polluted Songhua
River for decades. "The accident sounded the alarm once again,
urging the central government to place its relocation on the
agenda," Hu Fengbin said.
In another development, Xinhua News Agency reports
that a review committee passed on November 29 the "Evaluation of
Influences on Eco-environment by Water Pollution of Songhua River
and Technical Restoration Project," which was jointly made by
Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, Research Center
for Eco-environmental Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences,
SEPA's Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, Peking
University, Tsinghua University, et al. An expert group hurried to
the scene on November 30 to sample and analyze pollutants in the
(China.org.cn by Shao Da, December 5, 2005)