In the news: On Wednesday 12 August in the Chinese port city of Tianjin, two enormous explosions occurred in a terminal where hazardous chemicals were stored. The consequences were fatal. At the time of writing, the official death toll stands at 123. An illconsidered effort to extinguish a fire in the terminal may have triggered a chain reaction that led to the explosions.
Commentary by Kevin Zhao, Master’s student of Food Safety, from China
‘It is a tragedy. Primarily, of course, because so many people have died. People are very worried because exactly which chemicals were involved has still not been clarifi ed. They are wearing mouth masks because there may be harmful substances in the air. Friends of mine from Beijing, which is not far from Tianjin, are scared that clouds of chemicals will blow their way if the wind direction changes.
Regulations to prevent such incidents do exist, but whether they are being followed is another matter. After all, they are not uncommon in China. As a rule, measures are implemented only afterwards. And that is too late. At the same time, it is also diffi cult for the government to keep everything under control. China is so big, has so many people and so many companies. It may be hard to appreciate in a small country like the Netherlands, but in China we are almost used to this kind of news.
I think that now the government will become stricter. After the scandals involving poisoned milk powder - adulterated by manufacturers to reduce production costs - the rules in the food industry were tightened and those responsible were punished severely. As a result, the situation in terms of food safety has now improved.
China is a country in development. All the industry that has been created has enabled strong economic growth. But the environmental consequences are becoming increasingly evident. We now know that we must take action. Accordingly, the government is promoting the use of clean technology. At the last G20 summit a promise was made to reduce CO2 emissions. China is making progress, but such transitions inevitably take time.