The water quality of Tuojiang River in southwest China's Sichuan Province began to return to a normal level recently, almost two months after severe pollution forced the suspension of water supply to one million people.
However, it will take five years for the ecological environment along the river to recover its normal level before the pollution, according to the Sichuan Provincial People's Congress, the province's top legislature.
"The pollution has caused serious political impact and great economic losses for us," said Liu Xiaofeng, vice governor of Sichuan Province. "We should learn a very good lesson from it."
From Feb. 11 to March 2, a large amount of highly-concentrated ammonia nitrogen waste water was directly released into Tuojiang River without any sewage treatment by the Second Chemical Fertilizer Factory under the Sichuan chemical industry group corporation.
The river was seriously polluted with the ammonia nitrogen indices in the middle and lower reaches far exceeding the state criteria, according to the monitoring by local environmental protection authorities.
Water supply to about one million people in Jianyang, Ziyang, Neijiang cities was forced to stop due to the serious pollution, which also killed numerous fishes in the river.
Investigation show the factory's water pollution prevention facilities began their operation without government permission.
To curb the pollution, the province had turned to artificial rainfall and diverted about 55 million cubic meters of water from neighboring Minjiang River to wash out the pollutants.
At the same time, about 50 industrial enterprises discharging pollutants exceeding state standards were also shut down by environmental protection authorities during a massive crackdown after the accident.
"The ammonia nitrogen waste has now dropped to its lowest level in recent years due to our efforts as suggested by our monitoring," the vice governor said.
However, ecologists say it will take at least another five years for the entire ecological system in the region to be restored to its original level.
The corporation causing the pollution was fined 1 million yuan (about US$120,000), the maximum amount of penalty for a polluting company in the country, by the Sichuan Provincial Department of Environmental Protection.
To date, the provincial government is still undecided how to punish people responsible for the accident and carry out further compensation for those victims.
(Xinhua News Agency April 16, 2004)