smelly canal

photo from tieba.baidu

Trees line both sides of the canal. The water is green with yellow leaves and some garbage such as some white disposable lunch boxes on the canal. That is the Longhu Canal.

Longhu Canal, the 7.3 kilometers long canal across Longhu and Jinpin district in Shantou, used to be the main source of water for fields near the canal.
However, as urbanization caused more people to move to Shantou, industrial and domestic sewage also grew and poured into the canal.

An excerpt from a Shantou Huangxing primary school student’s essay which posted on www.zwz.cn, entitled “The complaint of Longhu Canal,” says it all:

“I am a dirty and smelly river. But that is not my original appearance. I used to be clean and there were many fishes. However, after a chemical factory set up nearby, my life was changed. The polluted water made by factory and people were poured into the river. The water was smelly, fishes were dead.”

Wang Muwei was born and raised on a street near the canal where he now works as a guard along its banks.

“People could swim in the canal or even use the water to cook”, continued the 74-year-old man, “but after reforming and opening, polluted water from factories and residential district were pour into the canal, including the flushing water, making the canal smelly and full of Hyacinth.”

He was referring to the time since the early 1980s when Shantou was designated as one of China’s special economic zones to stimulate development and growth.

Wang recalled, “At that time, the color of the water was black, just like the color of ink. I could smell the stench in my house, which was about 30 meters away. Everyone who passed the Longhu Canal would cover their nose. When the weather was hot, the stench would be more terrible.”

According to Shantou government, in the National People’s Congress and the Chinese Political Consultative Conference, cleaning Longhu Canal became a priority. In 2003, the government determined to clean Longhu Canal.

The Shantou Chengguan (a city management office) stated that the cleaning project would clear the silt and pollutants in the canal completely. Then they would install a pipe to the sewage treatment plants to transport the dirty water. Finally, they would divert the water from Han River, which is the longest river (410 kilometers) in Chaoshan district and the second longest river in Guangdong province, to Longhu Canal in order to clean the canal and make the water flow.

The cleaning project was set up in Dec.31, 2003, and substantially completed in 2008, lasted for four years, and cost 148 million RMB, according to Shantou government website.

The environment of Longhu Canal in Longhu district has improved. Trees are growing, stone benches are built on both sides of the canal. Some simple fitness equipment such as parallel bars are also built near the canal. Many people sit on the benches or play with the equipments. In Jinping district, on one side of the Longhu Canal is a big lawn.

Zhang Weiting lives nearby and she plays with her daughter in the lawn. She said, “the environment is OK here. Even though the river also smelly, if you do not get close to the river you won’t smell the unpleasant smell.”

“Anyway, the lawn is good. There are many people like to play here at noon, especially the children and old man. Children like to play games here and old man come here to take a walk or play chess together.”

On the other side of the Canal in Jinping district is an about 1 meter wide greenbelt, which separates the river from the living area. Some stone chairs and tables are located in the greenbelt.

Zhu Qiyuan, a grade four school child sat by a stone table doing his homework. He does not live in this area but likes to come here to the cleanest part of the canal in this district although, he admits, it is still smelly.

The garbage alongside the canal in both Jinping district and Longhu district point to the canal’s future. Empty plastic bags and disposable lunchboxes litter the sides of the canal. No garbage  containers or cleaners are in sight.

Wang Muwei said there are cleaners who are specially in charge of the canal’s cleaning. “They are not doing their job regularly. I don’t exactly know when they will show up.”

Wang and his friends who are retired workers living near Longhu Canal are all satisfied with the cleaning project, “after the cleaning project, even though the quality of water cannot back to the original state, it’s better than when the water were smelly and fishes are back to this canal.”

But they also said they worried about the Longhu Canal’s future. The pipes connected to the sewage treatment plants are made of rubber. Even though the Shantou Department of Water Resources claimed that the pipes are strong enough and save money, Wang and his friends still think pipes made of reinforced concrete would be better.

“I always think the situation won’t last long because I am afraid the pipe will break sooner or later. And people’s environment awareness also need to be enhanced. Anyway, I hope the situation today will continue.”