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Change of Heart Needed to Save River
The repeated dumping of waste in one of the country's major rivers has highlighted the cost of inaction by local officialdom on environmental issues.

In less than a month, the Yellow River has been severely polluted twice in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province in northwestern China.

The first case occurred on April 22 - World Earth Day - when an oil leakage from a machine tool factory swamped the Yellow River.

Then on May 18, oil waste from a petrochemical company in Lanzhou was discharged into the Yellow River due to malfunctioning of the company's sewage treatment facilities.

In both cases, officials imposed a 100,000 yuan (US$12,000) fine on the firms responsible.

The Yellow River is not only the "mother river" of the Chinese nation but also the water lifeline for the vast northern regions. Its vulnerability to environmental degradation was recently highlighted by the worst water shortage in 50 years.

The first pollution case at Lanzhou occurred because environmental protection regulations were neglected.

The second exposed a lack of environmental awareness among both local enterprises and officials.

Although these officials have talked a lot about environmental protection, the outrageous frequency of pollution cases at Lanzhou shows that they have failed to monitor the situation as claimed.

The mother river has, time and again, been polluted with filthy waste from local factories.

An increasing number of environmental disasters in recent years prove that the costs of uncontrolled development are too high.

It is time that local officials stop adding to underlying problems by pursuing short-term solutions.

Unless they take environmental issues seriously, local enterprises will not take their words to heart.

(China Daily May 26, 2003)

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