Fri, Oct 24, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Scenic lake in China polluted by arsenic, state media reports

AFP , BEIJING

Water supplies for at least 26,000 people were cut off in southwest China after a scenic lake popular with holidaymakers was contaminated with arsenic and other pollutants, state media reported yesterday.

The vice mayor and several officials have been sacked over the contamination of Yunnan Province’s Yangzonghai Lake, the China News Service said.

At least 18 officials have been removed from their posts or relieved of their duties pending investigation, including provincial, city and county-level Chinese Communist Party cadres, it said. Eight were reportedly demoted.

Xinhua news agency said it would take about three years and cost hundreds of millions of US dollars to clean up the lake, were high levels of poisonous arsenic were found in June.

At least 26,000 people living around the lake had their water cut off in July because of the problem, it said.

Most of the residents were soon given access to water from another source, but about 200 were still dependent on bottled water, Xinhua reported.

Three executives of the Jinye Industry and Trade Co, a chemical firm suspected of being the principal polluter, have also been arrested and are facing criminal charges, the report said.

The local government’s blind pursuit of economic growth and tax revenues led to the lax pollution controls around the lake, despite orders from Beijing to place greater priority on the environment, Xinhua said.

Last year, the chemical company paid 11 million yuan (US$1.6 million) in taxes, it said.

Locals had complained about the pollution from the factory for years, but officials refused to take action, China News Service said.

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