Archive | January, 2013

Bad Feng and Dangerous Shui

14 Jan

On the last day of 2012, I found myself struggling to breathe through a spot of flu and bronchitis. Home alone with a pack of tissues and a hot water bottle, the highlight of my day was being able to breathe through a nostril. The fella was in another town, which was good for him as I kept waking in the night to cough and blow my nose in lame bids to breathe. A few days later, the drugs started to kick in and things were looking up. Or so I thought.

On the fifth day of 2013, I returned home from work to find the taps spitting air. My boss texted everyone saying that the city’s water supply will be stopped for two days. No reason why. Even though I had only bought five gallons of drinking water that afternoon, I still headed out to buy water. No luck. The corner shop was sold out of bottled water and the nearest supermarket only had bottles of designer water at haute couture prices.

On my way home, I noticed people carrying buckets and pots of water. I summoned my limited powers of Mandarin and asked them where they got their precious cargo from. They pointed out a queue of people hiding in the dark. I thanked them and ran home to grab a bucket. In fact, I grabbed two buckets.

People had buckets, pots, kettles, bottles and anything else that could hold water. The water we were queuing up for was not fit for drinking but would be fine for flushing toilets. When I returned home with my two beautiful buckets of water, the first thing I did was turn on the television and hit the local channel. There was a special announcement playing on loop. It explained, to the confused citizens of Handan, that the water had to be cut because a chemical spill in the province of Shanxi had affected one of the city’s main water supplies.

I hit the internet and found out that the chemical in question was aniline and the accident was allegedly reported on the 31st December. It took Shanxi officials five days to make the announcement to Handan and other cities and provinces effected by the spill. So now, everyone is preparing for some major heads to roll. A local colleague informed me that

“this has never happened in China before, an entire city without water.”

Even top dogs from Beijing came to town as part of the investigation into what the funk went on. “Maybe some good will come from this” I thought to myself. The logic being that China will be more careful with it’s chemicals and water supplies. Again, I was terribly wrong.

Only a few days after word of Handan’s water problem hit national news, there was another water cut caused by shoddy handling of chemicals. This time it was in Shanghai. I couldn’t believe my ears. In the same sitting of evening news, there was a piece on terrible air pollution in Beijing. Again, I took to the internet. I found out that it wasn’t just Beijing that was having air trouble, it was quite a large slice of China – including Handan. Things were most definitely not looking up.

On my web quest for information I found a neat little website that shows the real time air quality index of cities in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, and a few parts of Singapore and India. I’ve even downloaded the widget onto my mobile phone.

So now, even though I can breath comfortably through both nostrils, I have low hopes for China and 2013. My new year’s resolution? Stay alive and healthy.


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