Amid criticism of his government’s handling of a water contamination crisis the Chinese prime minister has visited the region affected. Wen Jiabao told the people of Harbin they would soon have “safe drinking water”. The north-eastern city is the largest population centre threatened by the spill of toxic chemicals into the Songhua river which runs through it. Tonnes of cancer-causing Benzene and other substances were discharged into the river after an explosion at a petrochemical plant upstream.
Wen has promised a drive to clean up China’s environment. Some 70 percent of the country’s rivers are said to be polluted – a consequence of rapid industrial growth. But the government insists it must continue to support economic development and environmentalists fear this will not be China’s last ecological crisis.