Heads roll

After a chemicals factory pollutes a river in China

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

the president of China's leading chemical companies' group has been forced to resign in connection with what is being touted at the worst ever water pollution case in the country's history. Xie Muxi, president of the state-run Sichuan Chemicals Group and chairperson of its subsidiary Sichuan Chemicals Co Ltd, recently put in his papers after being charged with neglecting "his supervisory duties". The Sichuan province's largest chemicals plant belonging to the company, located in its capital Chengdu's Qingbaijiang district, was found to have led to "large-scale" pollution of the Tuojiang River. This caused the water supply to be cut off for days for over one million people staying downstream, according to the environmental protection bureau of Sichuan province.

The crisis was triggered by the breakdown of the chemical plant's sewage treatment plant between February 11, 2004 and March 2, 2004. This led to the discharge of a huge amount of unprocessed wastewater with high content of nitrogen and ammonia into the Tuojiang river, a major tributary of the Yangtze River. The accident was not reported to environmental authorities on time and the company also did not take any effective measures to deal with the aftermath, authorities charge. This caused damages to the river's ecology, they allege.

Even before Xie's resignation, the company was slapped a fine of one million yuan (us $120,000). Another five officials of the company, held responsible for the crisis, have been handed over to judicial authorities for prosecution, says Ou Zegao, secretary, politics and law commission of the Communist Party of China (cpc)'s Sichuan provincial committee.

Authorities that investigated the crisis have held six parties responsible -- the company, three local environment-overseeing agencies, the local water bureau and the local government of Qingbaijiang district. Judicial investigation is also underway and the guilty would receive due punishment, Ou said. The provincial government is also discussing compensation for the affected.

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