A gutsy entrepreneur pushed the issue of China’s heavily polluted rivers into the spotlight last week by offering a local environmental protection official over $30,000 to take a dip in Rui’an City’s garbage-filled river. Jin Zengmin dared Environmental Protection Chief Bao Zhenming, saying the money could be claimed after a 20 minute swim. The dare accompanied Zengmin’s photos of the heavily polluted river, which is overflowing with cans, polystyrene boxes and toxic substances produced by a rubber shoe factory.

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Over 40 percent of China’s rivers are heavily polluted, according to a report by the Ministry of Water issued last year, leaving 200 million rural Chinese without access to clean drinking water. Groundwater in 90 percent of China’s cities is also contaminated, the report found. The problem lies in unregulated dumping by Chinese industries, which are able to pollute the waters without penalty.

Zengmin’s challenge to Bao was declined; instead, the Rui’an government claimed that the river’s pollution was caused by individuals and not industry dumping. This attitude of denial is what spurs people like Zengmin to take a stand and draw attention to the issue. Last month Chinese billionaire Chen Guangiao began selling canned air– a ploy that responded to Beijing’s chronic air pollution.

Public awareness and concern is helping to bring these issues to light, which may have spurred the government’s announcement that it will enforce an insurance program that requires heavy polluting industries to provide compensation for damage.

Via The Guardian 

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