Blacksmith Institute's demonstration project on heavy metals contamination of the Diaojiang River in Guangxi Province, China, has concluded.  "The outcome has propelled the local heavy metal treatment cause forward substantially," reported Wang Shengrui of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES), a Blacksmith grant recipient and partner in the project.  "Results provide a systematic solution to the long-time heavy metal pollution problems of Nandan County," he said.

In addition, the Chinese government has designated the Nandan project as a "key" part of the national heavy metal treatment plan and allocated nearly $16 million to the Environmental Protection Bureau of Nandan County among their first funding allocations. "This means that Nandan can now shift focus from initial planning to treatment and has guidance for field engineering as well," he added.

Diaojiang River is the source of the Red River water system, which flows from Nandan County to the City of Hechi, serving more than three million people. It was badly polluted with heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium and zinc, from a mining operation that began in the 1980s. The mine not only discharged wastewater directly into the river, but also left a mass of mine tailings piled on riverbanks. Further, the river filled with tailings washed into the water during storm seasons. As a result, fish and shrimp died, riverbank farmlands could not be cultivated, downstream communities suffered health problems.

The Hechi city government launched the Diaojiang treatment project in 1998 to build wastewater treatment facilities. They improved water quality significantly, but polluting tailings remained. Lack of funds and remediation technology hampered further cleanup until Blacksmith joined with the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences and Environmental Protection Bureau of Nandan County to address the issue.

Blacksmith funded a stakeholders' group, which met frequently during the project's duration, rallying the community around remediation. Blacksmith also developed a pilot cleanup plan for the polluted area at the origin of the river, which was discussed and approved by the local Water Conservancy, Land, and Agriculture Bureaus and the Minerals Council. The project's technical report provided a needed reference for the Environmental Protection Bureau of Nandan County to obtain more know how and resources to tackle the problem.

The demonstration project was funded by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.