China's NE farming belt accused of livestock pollution failures

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Waste from poultry and livestock farms has contaminated land and water supplies in China’s northeast farm province of Heilongjiang due to inadequate and poorly run treatment facilities, a government review said on Wednesday.

Just 47 percent of the province’s large-scale poultry and livestock farms had installed proper waste treatment facilities, and many weren’t running those facilities correctly, the report published by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said.

Livestock pollution has emerged as one of China’s biggest pollution threats, and new regulations have forced thousands of facilities to relocate or close near densely populated or environmentally sensitive regions.

In Heilongjiang, the Zhengbang Group, one of China’s biggest agribusinesses, turned off sewage treatment facilities at one of its large pig farms in the city of Zhaodong earlier this year, dumping highly concentrated wastewater in nearby grasslands, the report said.

The firm could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday, but it told the stock exchange in July that it had been fined 2 million yuan ($288,000) for the incident. It said this amounted to 0.4 percent of its listed unit’s net profit in 2017.

A proposal put before China’s parliament in March on improving the rural environment said the poultry and livestock industry produces nearly 4 billion tonnes of waste every year, but less than half of it is safely treated.

The report on Heilongjiang was the latest in a series of nationwide reviews of compliance with environmental regulations published by the environment ministry.

In other reviews over the past week, the southern provinces of Guangdong and Yunnan were also accused of failing to properly handle pollution from animal husbandry.

The city of Huizhou in Guangdong failed to investigate repeated complaints by citizens about livestock pollution, while Yunnan’s agriculture bureau had also failed to relocate farms from restricted areas, inspectors said.

Reporting by David Stanway; editing by Richard Pullin