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Industrial dumping damages Yangtze shipping channel

27 November 2013
Severe damage has been done to the main shipping channel in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River near Zhangjiagang, according to the Yangtze Waterway Bureau, and the Yangtze police are now involved in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The section in question, Fujiangsha South Channel, is part of a deep water shipping channel that the Yangtze Waterway Bureau aims to maintain at a minimum level of 10.5 metres all year round. The minimum level will increase further as part of a major dredging project to increase the water depth to 12.5 metres up to Nanjing by 2015. A large dredger is deployed there permanently.

During one of its dredging missions in mid June, the rake of the giant dredger snapped and its mud pump stuck. Operators discovered large rocks and construction waste at the bottom of the river. In mid August, while on patrol along the shipping channel, officials from the local waterway bureau witnessed dumping from a nearby terminal construction site and concluded that it was the same industrial waste that the giant dredger had previously encountered. So they went to the contractor of the project, demanding they stop the dumping and clear up the mess immediately. The contractor ignored the officials, who subsequently reported the company to the police.

On 26 September, when the Yangtze police went to the site to collect evidence, two vessels used by the contractor were caught dumping.

While the police are still preparing the case for prosecution, waterway officials have pointed out that this is by no means an isolated case. According to Zeng Wen, deputy chief law enforcement officer of the Yangtze Waterway Bureau, many ports and terminals in the lower reaches are expanding and renovating in anticipation of the arrival of larger vessels following the dredging project, but very few have thought about handling the waste responsibly.

In the 3km long section of Fujiangsha South Channel, there are now seven shoals, the largest creating a water level of only 9.3 metres. Restoring it to the normal level of 10.5 metres cannot be done in just a few days, waterway officials said.

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