Building New Clean Water Networks in China: Challenges and Opportunities for Protecting Lake Tai Workshop at Nanjing University January 14 -15, 2010
The first activity carried out for this project was a two-day workshop at Nanjing University that brought together a diverse group of government, NGO, industry, and research professionals from the Lake Tai watershed to participate in highly interactive discussions with international counterparts. Participants learned about some of the key drivers of Lake Tai's complex pollution problems and discussed possible policy, market, transparency, and scientific strategies used in the United States and Japan that could prevent and/or remediate pollution in Lake Tai.
Following the first workshop in Nanjing, CEF and its partners have formed a tri-national research team from the workshop participants to take part in two exchanges to explore water pollution prevention strategies in lakes in the United States and Japan. Information from research and exchanges will inform a trilingual brief on strategies and tools for lake protection that are applicable to China and outline specific opportunities for international—especially joint U.S.-Japanese—water cooperation in China
Please Click on the Presentation Title for a Summary
Snapshot of Lake Tai's Pollution Woes
In this session, Chinese scientists and policy researchers discussed some of the key drivers of pollution problems in Lake Tai. The goal was to give all at the workshop a common understanding of the scope and scale of the pollution and to start discussion on some of the lessons learned from past and ongoing projects to protect the watershed.
Dr. Gu Gang, Director, Wuxi Office of Taihu Lake, Lake Tai Restoration
Mr. Wei Jiang, Director, Division of Taihu Lake, Jiangsu Department of Environmental Protection, Pollution control in Lake Taihu Watershed in Jiangsu Province
Lessons from Abroad for Lake Tai
In this session, U.S. and Japanese speakers talked about lake pollution problems in their respective countries and highlighted some successful policies, projects and continuing challenges.
Dr. Motoyuki Mizuochi, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Anti-eutrophication Measures for Lakes in Japan
Mr. David Dilks, Limnotech, Including Science into Policy to Address Pollution in the Great Lakes
Mr. Andy Buchsbaum, National Wildlife Federation, From Policy to Action in the Great Lakes
New Incentives for Industry to Protect Water
Speakers in this session discussed various types of successful or promising initiatives businesses are undertaking with local partners to lower pollution and push conservation of water. For example, there is a new water pollution trading pilot project on Lake Tai, which is bringing in new business stakeholders to solving the pollution problems in the lake.
Dr. Bing Zhang, CEMP, Compensated Use of Emission Permit in Tai Lake: a Hybrid Approach of Price and Quantity
Mr. Charles Xu, BioChem Technology Inc., A New Technology With Energy Saving and Loading Reduction Applied in Wuxi Tai Lake
Mr. Matt Turner, Future 500, New Incentive for Industry to Protect Water
Involving Communities in Water Pollution Solutions
Speakers discussed the opportunities and challenges of involving communities in water pollution prevention policy and activities.
Mr. Ge Junjie, CEMP, Environmental Information Disclosure and Public participation in Lake Tai Basin: Evidence of Yixin
Mr. Cy Jones, World Resources Institute, Regional Nitrogen and Phosphorus Trading in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Dr. Tokio Okino, Shinshu University, The water purification in Lake Suwa: The experiences and the problems of environmental rehabilitation of a lake
Involving Business in Water Pollution Solutions
In this session speakers explored the challenges and opportunities of encouraging businesses in China to lower water pollution emissions. Speakers are all involved in work to engage businesses in China, Japan, or the United States in improving water pollution emissions and disseminating information to green supply chains and promote environmental sustainability.
Mr. Ma Jun, Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs, Environmental challenge and green choice
Ms. Noriko Sakamoto, Japan for Sustainability, Networking and Collaboration with Japanese Business Sector
Ms. Laura Ediger, Business for Social ResponsibilityWater Pollution in China: How Can Business Help?
NGOs Dive Into Water Work
Across two sessions, NGO speakers gave short presentations about their work in promoting transparency and community education around water pollution in China. Discussion aimed to highlight where capacity building/partnerships are needed for Chinese and international NGOs to engage business and communities to address China's growing water challenges.
Mr. Wen Bo, Pacific Environment, Networking China's Green Groups to Tackle Water Pollution
Mr. Zhou Xiang, Green Anhui, Public Participation in promoting Water Environment Protection
Ms. Eve Li, Shanghai Green Oasis, Green Oasis and its Water Pollution Work
Ms. Wu Yixiu, Greenpeace China, Green Peace Water Pollution Prevention and Control project: Toxic and Hazardous Industrial Substances
New Partnerships for Clean Water
Ms. Wang Jingjing, Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs, Promote NGO Cooperation
Ms. Ran Liping, Green Camel Bell, Water Environment Protection in Western China: Three case studies of Green Camel Bell
Mr. Wang Junzhi, Jiangsu Friends of Nature, Jiangsu Friends of Nature
Mr. Wei Jiang
Pollution control in Lake Tai Watershed in Jiangsu Province
Mr. Wei Jiang of the Jiangsu Department of Environmental Protection for Lake Tai kicked off the conference by providing an overview of Lake Tai pollution. Lake Tai is the third largest freshwater lake in China, roughly the same size as the city of Shenzhen. It is an important water source for two provinces—Jiangsu and Zhejiang—and the city of Shanghai. Prior to the 1980s, Lake Tai was called the "Bright Pearl South of the Yangtze River," due to its clean water and beautiful landscape.
Due to the rapid population growth, economic development and rapid urbanization in the basin, the water quality of Lake Tai started to deteriorate mid-1990s. According to Mr. Jiang, it only took about ten years for the water quality of Lake Tai to degrade from Category II (slightly polluted and drinkable after routine purifying treatment) to Category III (suitable for tap water sources, fish farming, and swimming). Eutrophication is the major environmental problem facing Lake Tai, which has led cities in the basin to focuse on pollution control of total nitrogen and total phosphorus. These pollutants are exacerbating the natural algae growth problem in this shallow lake, which is why a great deal of Lake Tai restoration work has focused on lake dredging.
Mr. Wei Jiang emphasized that the commitment of central and local governments to clean up the lake has sparked investment and numerous pollution control work that has already achieved promising results. In 2008, the frequency of algae blooms in Lake Tai dropped 30 percent and algae affected areas have also declined by nearly 45 percent from the previous year. After three years of pollution control and treatment, the intensity of algae blooms in Lake Tai is down almost 90 percent. And the impact of Lake Tai pollution on drinking water quality has been brought under control.
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Dr. Gu Gang
Lake Tai Restoration
In the summer of 2007, millions were denied access to drinking water when Lake Tai turned a florescent green with toxic cyanobacteria—often referred to as algae bloom. This algae bloom was caused by municipal and industrial wastewater emissions, as well as considerable agricultural, aquaculture, and animal waste runoff.
Dr. Gu Gang, the Director of the Wuxi Office of Lake Tai, passionately introduced the ongoing Lake Tai restoration work, especially projects underway in the Wuxi City. Wuxi municipal authorities are prioritizing work to clean up Lake Tai, for the prosperity of this city of 6 million largely depends on the health of the lake.
Dr. Gu first introduced a successful example of water quality restoration of Li Bay, a part of Lake Tai next to Wuxi City. Major efforts—including external loading control, sediment dredging, clear water diversion and ecological restoration—have greatly improved the water quality and beach areas in Li Bay. Dr. Gu suggested that the experience of Li Bay restoration should be extended to the entire Lake Tai area and that Lake Tai restoration work should focus on the following three areas: removing blue-green alga, ecological sediment dredging, and diversion of clean water.
Currently, beside various ecological restoration efforts, Wuxi City and Jiangsu Province have instituted a variety of policy measures and pilot projects (some with central government support) to prevent pollution in Lake Tai. Projects and policies include:
• Instituting environmental accountability system through more pollution monitoring;
• Building more wastewater treatment plants;
• Banning waste water effluents from certain industries; and,
• Promoting measures to halt agricultural runoff.
Wuxi has developed a drinking water backup plan for use in the event of abrupt water quality deterioration, similar to the one that occurred in 2007.
According to Dr. Gu, there are three major challenges in Lake Tai restoration: no agency to coordinate the restoration work, existence of huge capital gap, and lack of comprehensive scientific studies on Lake Tai. Dr. Gu then specified some of the urgent scientific and technological gaps that need to be filled to enable better restoration, such as:
• Improving the measurement indicators for total nitrogen;
• Establishing a lake-wide decision-making and inspection system;
• Identifying pollutant composition and ratios;
• Determining the environmental capacity of the lake body and main river course water;
• Formulating feasible agricultural nonpoint source water pollution control methods; and,
• Identifying better technologies to treat lake siltation and sewage and devising a blue-green alga bloom early warning technology.
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Dr. Motoyuki Mizuochi
Anti-eutrophication Measures for Lakes in Japan—Conservation program to prevent the eutrophication of Kasumigaura lake
Dr. Motoyuki shared stories of effective small-scale, domestic wastewater treatment that was used to address eutrophication in Japan's Lake Kasumigaura. As early as the 1880s, Japanese researchers began to recognize the potential harm of water pollution and by the 1950s it was clear that water pollution was restricting economic growth and posing severe health threats to citizens. Following public outrage over a number of high-profile water pollution cases that sickened thousands in the 1960s, Japan enacted the Water Pollution Control Law in 1970. This law has been highly effective in reducing levels of organic pollutants in Japan's lakes and rivers.
Since 1974, Japan has seen significant progression of organic pollutant standards, although lake water quality is still significantly lower than that of rivers or marine areas. To combat this, Japan is currently enacting a major nationwide water conservation initiative to improve the water quality in Japan's lakes and rivers. The initiative includes a number of domestic wastewater measures, such as sea-based treatment plants and installation of on-site treatment equipment, and small-scale treatment systems for houses. New regulations also require the reduction of chemical fertilizer use and protection of water plant vegetation zones and wetland systems.
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Mr. David Dilks
Including Science into Policy to Address Pollution in the Great Lakes
Mr. Dilks began by observing that it can be very difficult to facilitate communication between scientists and policymakers, as the latter are often reluctant to consider results that come with some amount of uncertainty. Sometimes this hurdle can be overcome and in the case of the Great Lakes Region, he discussed how science has created consensus to direct water protection policy in water in the region and suggested that this method might be used in Lake Tai restoration. The Great Lakes, located on the U.S.-Canadian border, are 245,000 square kilometers in surface area. The five lakes—Michigan, Erie, Superior, Huron, and Ontario—are managed by many agreements and organizations from the state to federal levels, which all must work with the International Joint Commission (IJC), a bilateral oversight agency that helps to prevent and resolve water disputes along the U.S.-Canadian border. In 1970, the IJC reported that serious water quality problems were having significant negative effects on both health and property in the Great Lakes basin. This report catalyzed the formation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, in which the United States and Canada agreed on targets, and each country's government was given autonomy to enact whatever policy it chose to reach those targets. Policies and programs were reviewed regularly by the IJC, and were revised often with consideration for public opinion.
Mr. Dilks used Saginaw Bay, in Lake Huron, as an example of how science can be used to inform restoration policy. Saginaw Bay is similar in size to Lake Tai and in the 1970s the bay faced similarly excessive phosphorus loads leading to blue-green algal blooms and water supply problems. In the 1980s, scientists at Limotech developed a mathematical model to take phosphorus load, climate and other factors into account and predict water quality. This model was used to guide policymakers to undertake measures to ensure control of pollutant loads. The measures were largely successful, and Saginaw Bay's algae problem virtually disappeared by 1991.
Mr. Dilks then discussed the relevance of the Great Lakes experience to the situation in Lake Tai. Science can be used both to accurately define the significance of the problem and to inform management decisions by: (1) determining the required magnitudes of controls, (2) defining the response time, (3) identifying key sources of pollution, and (4) using an adaptive management to account for changes in the lake environment over time. The Great Lakes region offers many models science that was used to inform effective lake clean up and protection policies.
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Mr. Andy Buchsbaum
From Policy to Action in the Great Lakes
Mr. Buchsbaum discussed some of the challenges in implementing aggressive measures to protect the Great Lakes. He emphasized the importance of two elements that have become a foundation for progress in the Great Lakes region: focus and unity. And as examples of these elements, he described the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
The Great Lakes Water Resources Compact, which was created through collective legislative action by the eight Great Lakes states, manages groundwater and surface water to ensure ecosystem protection and water efficiency. The formation of this compact was difficult, due to poor coordination among the dozens of agencies that operate in different political jurisdictions in the two countries, many with overlapping responsibilities. Even though both U.S. states and Canadian provinces in the Great Lakes region feared that their federal governments could permit water diversion from the lakes to water scarce regions, a joint management agreement was debated for years. Ultimately a consortium made up of business leaders commissioned a study examine the costs and benefits massive restoration of the lake could have for the basin's economies. The subsequent study done by the Brookings Institution revealed a nearly double return on such investments. This study helped bring business, policy, agriculture, and NGO stakeholders together to design a non-binding statement of principles to govern water use in the Great Lakes Region. The compact emphasizes the idea that maintaining fresh water in the lakes would attract new businesses and thus argued that pollution controls had strong economic benefits
From this compact, 110 organizations formed the environmental NGO, the Healing Our Waters Coalition, whose strategy was to unify the science, cleanup plans, and outreach for Great Lakes restoration while simultaneously enlisting the support of businesses and targeting key decision-makers. This coalition even was influential in getting the presidential candidates Obama and McCain to pledge to restore the Great Lakes. As a result, after his election President Obama has made a $5 billion commitment to the Great Lakes, almost half of which has already been allocated into the EPA's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This initiative is designed to counteract many problems including toxic contamination, nutrient pollution, sewage waste, habitat destruction, and invasive species.
The Great Lakes experience demonstrates the importance of prioritizing the issues, and unifying the strategy in the NGO and business communities. Such strong civil society and business partnerships can help create a stable coalition of stakeholders to work with decision-makers towards a common goal to protect lakes under pressure.
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Dr. Bing Zhang
Compensated Use of Emission Permit in Tai Lake: a Hybrid Approach of Price and Quantity
Dr. Bing Zhang, who works at the Center for Environmental Management and Policy (CEMP) at Nanjing University introduced the center's emission permitting system in Lake Tai. Using a combination of price and quantity based approaches; CEMP began implementing an emission permitting system for COD discharge permits in 2008. To help create the trading market, CEMP and its government partners have had to set up a permit system, which includes determining appropriate allocations and establishing market value for the permits for businesses to obtain. Currently, this pilot project has been applied to companies with pollutant emissions larger than 10 tons within one area of the Tai Lake Basin.
The average price of a permit is about 4500 Yuan/ton and this price is established by an electronic platform that allows companies to trade. According to Dr. Zhang, this system is advantageous as it provides an integrated management platform for total quantity control to minimize pollution treatment costs and allocate environmental resources more efficiently. However, several factors have been limiting the implementation of this system. For example, there is a lack of supportive legislation, the pilot area is too small, and only a few pollutants are included. China does not currently require caps on emitting nutrients, which is the main pollutant responsible for the eutrophication problems. However, the 12th Five-Year Program may set some targets to limit nutrient pollution, which could enable it to be added to such trading pilot programs. Moreover, the needed institutional change and monitoring have not kept up with the ambitious goals the project organizers have for the water pollution trading system.
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Mr. Charles Xu
A New Technology With Energy Saving and Loading Reduction Applied in Wuxi Tai Lake
Mr. Charles Xu, of BioChem Technology, introduced a new technology that would theoretically reduce pollutant loads at a much lower cost. He argued that the problems with waste water treatment lie in the variable influent water quality, uncertain process parameters, unstable operation, and insufficient land. Mr. Xu claimed that if applying his company's new technology in all 169 waste water treatment plants in Wuxi, it could substantially reduce pollutants while saving a great amount of money. The challenges for applying this process include the lack of human resources, and matching equipment, also that policymakers tend to have reservations about new technologies.
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Mr. Matt Turner
Future 500—New Incentive for Industry to Protect Water
As Director of the Water Initiative at Future 500, Mr. Turner discussed incentivizing industry to enact water protection measures. Future 500 forges links between corporations and stakeholders to advance what it calls the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. It acts as an intersection between corporations and NGOs and finds common ground. The membership of Future 500 includes leading brands and all sizes of NGOs and strives Future 500 to connect them in five principal areas with potential for common ground: human rights (access to water); smart pricing of water; water infrastructure; how corporations site projects (with an eye on their impact on water); and watershed protection.
Mr. Turner used the Coca-Cola Company's water resource management policies and practices in India as a model of a corporate partnership with communities to protect water. In the 1990s, Coke received substantial press attention for water mis-management practices and pollution allegations in India. Students at the University of Michigan voiced their concern regarding these issues and forced the University to suspend its contract with Coke in 2005 resulting in a loss of nearly 80,000 potential consumers. This major protest by consumers to Coke's practices overseas, let Coke to develop an action plan to make its water use practices some of the best in the world. The new practices spread to all of its plants and Coke is now on the forefront of the sustainable water use frontier.
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Mr. Ge Junjie
Environmental Information Disclosure and Public participation in Lake Tai Basin: Evidence of Yixin
Dr. Ge Junjie from Nanjing University discussed CEMP's experimental public participation project in Yixing, a city on the eastern side of Lake Tai that is a major source of municipal, industrial and agricultural runoff. In the late 1990s, as a part of a World Bank funded pilot research project on public participation, three cities in Jiangsu Province were chosen to organize meetings on pollution and environmental protection issues. CEMP has built on this roundtable work in continued the city of Yixing, which is surrounded by rivers that have very high pollutant loads and in 2006 experienced serious algal blooms. The research team organized two experimental public meetings with government, industry and community representatives from some villages in Yixing municipality to discuss potential solutions to water woes.
The first meeting was not very successful, for many of the participants were hesitant to speak openly in front of government officials. At the second meeting people became more comfortable and more open in discussions, but no consensus on action was reached in the end. Besides these two meetings, the research team also conducted a survey in Yixing on people's perception about the relationship between public participation and environmental protection. The survey found that the public is dissatisfied with current levels environmental information disclosure. The study found that the government is the key factor in whether public participation and information disclosure can be achieved or not.