Traditionally, the majority of livestock farming in China was family owned and small-scale, as the consumption of meat was limited to special occasions such as the Lunar New Year. However, rapid economic growth has made the consumption of meat a more regular part of the daily diet in most households, especially within the booming middle class. In order to keep up with demand, industrial-scale livestock farming is expanding exponentially in China with the backing of the government, which invested US$1.6 billion in the construction of industrialized pig farms between 2007 and 2010. In 2010, China’s first National Pollution Census found agriculture was a bigger cause of water pollution than industry. The Ministry of Agriculture attributed the problem to the misuse of fertilizers, pesticides and the rapid expansion of intensive livestock and aquaculture. Pollutants discharged from industrialized livestock and other agricultural operations lead to eutrophication and toxic algae blooms – a common problem in China’s rivers and lakes. On June 27, 2017, it was announced that a new, strict pollution control law that requires governmental enforcement and protection of drinking water supplies would go into effect on January 1, 2018.
To address this rise in pollution, some of our Chinese Waterkeepers are taking actions to encourage sustainable practices and control of industrial waste discharges.
In May of 2016, Mr. Dong, a staffer of Qiantang River Waterkeeper, identified a discharge of pig waste flowing from “Radish Hill” – an area that housed 26 pig houses for Xixi Farm. Mr. Dong immediately contacted Qiantang River Waterkeeper’s longtime partner ‘Focus Today,’ a Zhejiang television program, to cover the story and bring awareness to the issue. Within two days of the segment airing, the secretary of Zhejiang Provincial party investigated the farm and declared that livestock farming must not pollute the environment. As a result, Xixi Farm became a model ecological farm within a month, earning the praise of Mr. Xia. The owner of Xixi Farm acknowledged that sub standard sewage management caused pollution and that proper treatment of sewage would benefit him, neighboring farms, and the nation.
The Middle Han River Waterkeeper of Hubei Province is working closely with local government, local citizens, and the news media to prevent farm waste runoff from entering the Han River. With its newly established legal team, Middle Han River Waterkeeper will help farmers sustain their business while being in compliance with local regulations.
The Middle Huai Waterkeeper is working to address pollution caused by industrialized livestock and other agriculture in the watershed of Chao Lake. Chao Lake is one of China’s largest and most polluted freshwater lakes. The lake regularly experiences extreme algae blooms.
The Min River Waterkeeper of Sichuan Province has been working to address agricultural pollution in the Chengdu’s urban rivers for many years and created a sustainable village model to promote community-based, small scale farming in the villages of Chengdu City and other cities across China. This model generates income for many villagers and helps reduce pollution from agricultural runoff, household waste and livestock waste. In 2003, Min River Waterkeeper established Anlong Village based on the sustainable village model they developed. The model includes, among other things, household based eco-infrastructure, composting toilets, engineered wetlands, biogas digesters, bio-diverse ecological farming with organic fertilizers, and Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA). They are currently working on building a second Sustainable Village.
Head photo by Daishan Huo of Huai River Guardians.