Missing the Fenjiang atmosphere
I was born and grew up along a tributary of the Pearl River, the Fenjiang in Foshan. In the early 90s, one of our favorite pastimes during the warm summer nights, was to get “yeshao” or “midnight snacks” at the dozens of outdoor eateries that sprang up along “Fenjiang”, the Fen River. These eateries would cook up greasy but tasty fried noodles, fried rice and various seafood stir fries. Vegetables and dishes were washed with water directly pulled up in buckets from the river. No one thought much of it.
By the time I returned from my first trip home after immigrating to the US, in 1998, things had turned badly. The Fenjiang smelled like the soy sauce factory nearby and had many different colors similar to the textiles coming out of another factory. In my most recent trip last year, the river didn’t smell as bad, but still look dead, if not poisonous. People had different ideas as to which factories caused the pollution, but everyone accepted the situation as inevitable and never bothered with finding out the truth.
The causes for the Pearl River Delta’s pollution problems are clear. Irresponsible and profit-driven companies are obvious culprits but the ineffectiveness of enforcement at the regional level is a crucial cause for the continuation of the crisis. Armed with some of the most stringent environmental laws and regulations, Chinese environmental protection agencies are unwilling to utilize the power given to them by the national government because they are adhering to short term profit-driven interests. It’s time to change all that!!