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Modernizing China Confronts Environmental Woes

Since undertaking market reforms in late 1970s, China has enjoyed an economic boom -- but the economic progress has also produced serious environmental damage and pollution problems. Margaret Warner reports on China's environmental woes and their impact on the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Now, a two-part look at environmental problems, overseas and at home. We start with a report from Margaret Warner in China, looking at that country's massive pollution problems.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Deng Xiao Long and Shen Xiao Mei have been fishing on Tai Lake for their entire 23-year marriage. China's third-largest freshwater lake provided an abundant daily catch and drinking water for 6 million residents of the nearby city of Wuxi.

    They used to make a good living at it, but no more.

  • DENG XIAO LONG, Fisherman (through translator):

    Do you know why is it so hard to fish now? Because of the chemical elements in the water. If fish smell the chemicals, they flee. They run away. They run to somewhere better.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    This lake bank used to be rich with shrimp, Shen says, but in recent years many shrimp came up dead.

    It's no wonder the shrimp died: This is one of the rivers that feed the lake, carrying water that's turned nearly opaque from chemical byproducts dumped by factories upstream.

    Early last summer came the wake-up call: Blue-green algae in the lake mushroomed out of control. Wuxi's drinking water turned toxic.

  • ZHU TIEJUN, Jiangsu Environmental Protection Department (through translator):

    Last summer, the tap water supply for Wuxi was spoiled. For three days, the residents of Wuxi had to buy bottled water to drink.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Zhu Tiejun, deputy director for environmental protection for Jiangsu province, remembers his boyhood days when the lake was so clean he could drink from it.

    He was part of the emergency response when the crisis hit last summer. It included diverting part of the Yangtze River into Tai Lake to flush it out. Then, local officials took steps to try to avert the same situation this summer, when the warm weather returns.

  • ZHU TIEJUN (through translator):

    We shut down 2,100 seriously polluting factories and small-scale enterprises. Since then, six industries have not been allowed to establish in the Tai Lake region, like manufacturing, brewing, dying and printing.

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