Chasing Mirages

Sanniangwan garbage mystery – partially solved

by on Jan.31, 2013, under Posts

Remember all the garbage that washed up on the beaches of Sanniangwan after the last typhoon?  That was an extreme example, but the truth is that regular tides bring in enough trash to litter the beaches every day.  We often speculated on the source of all this garbage – How much of it came from Sanniangwan locals?  How much washed in from shores far away?  Sanniangwaners insisted that it washed down from the rivers feeding the estuary, namely Dafengjiang (大風江) and Luerhuanjiang (鹿耳環江).

I recently joined an expedition to explore human activity and water quality along Dafengjiang.  Among other discoveries, we were able to confirm one source of Sanniangwan’s litter.  According to local waterworks officials, NONE of the towns and villages along Dafengjiang have centralized garbage collection (or wastewater/sewage treatment).  Towns and villages are responsible for their own garbage disposal, which means getting it out of sight at the lowest cost.  There are really only two options – burn and dump.

Favorite places for dumping, as you can see from the pictures, are next to bridges and in forested gulches.  The forest picture was taken from a moving vehicle.  It is an open-air garbage dump, I’d estimate it to be tens of acres in area.

As for the bridge dump, a village waterworks official told us that the water level of Dafengjiang reaches the top of the bridge’s arches during the rainy season.  How convenient, high enough to clear away all that garbage!

This is yet another example of odd funding priorities – the district government office is a monstrous, lavishly designed, half-empty edifice (I’ll do my best to get a picture soon), while the district’s rural residents lack basic sanitation services.

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