Monday, April 25, 2011

Black Water, Black Smoke: Pig Pollution

Photographing black water created by pig manure, not in one of the places mentioned in this article

Everybody knows China has a pollution problem. What few people know is that pigs are the single biggest source of it. Several studies in China estimated that pollution from livestock and poultry was about 3 times the amount of pollution emitted by industry. According to a 2006 study published by China Academy of Sciences researchers, pigs accounted for nearly half of the livestock pollution.

A reporter from Shanghai's New People Evening News went out to a village to check out complaints of polluted water sent in by villagers. He saw the water had turned green and the surface of the river was covered with a black substance that gave off a powerful stench. The villagers told him this black stuff was manure washed into the river every morning by about a dozen hog farms.

One villager told him the manure appears in the river each morning and the water stops flowing. By afternoon the water starts to flow and it becomes bearable. When summer comes, he says the smell is so nasty they don't dare open their windows. He said if you use this water to irrigate your vegetables you won't need to use any chemical fertilizer.

The reporter came upon a plaque pronouncing this a "model responsibility river" featuring clear water free of waste and other substances. The villagers said the river had in fact been cleaned up several years ago, but since the hog farms had started operations the water had gotten worse, probably worse than before the clean-up.

Villagers say they complained to the village committee and the town environmental department but nothing had been done.

Mr. Zhou, the village committee head explained that the land used by the hog farms had previously been used for chicken houses. It had been rented to outsiders to set up hog farms. The villagers began complaining about the pollution early on. According to Mr. Zhou, officials from the town agricultural and environmental departments had already been out to negotiate with the farms and he says they agreed to shut down this year.

In an online forum posting from 2009, a college student who returned to his village pled for suggestions about how to deal with pollution from pigs. He said many people in his village raise pigs--mostly about 10 at a time. The manure is dumped in a pit and the smell is intolerable. When it rains manure flows out and forms a kind of stream. He said no one cares since the village is far from any big city.

The student also observes that most of the farmers feed their pigs leftover food from restaurantsin the county town. Apparently leftover cooking oil is a large part of it. He says the villagers know the source and will not buy the pork from these pigs. He adds that the farmers need to cook the slop before feeding it to the pigs, but there's not much firewood available. So they burn scrap cloth and plastic, which creates an acrid black smoke. At times the wind blows the smoke into his family's home.

The student wanted to know whether these odors and fumes were toxic and harmful to health. He got three responses. One described the environmental hazards of hog production but no useful advice about how to deal with the problem. Another suggested that the farmers put their pigs together in a hog-raising community (yang zhi xiao qu) and said there are many ways of handling manure they can learn. A third respondent suggests the farmers build a fermentation pit to produce cooking gas from the manure that could reduce the use of coal for cooking.

1 comment:

Dan Cederberg said...

Great job highlighting this. Not enough people acknowledge this link.