Discussion Papers

No.752 In and Beyond the Locality:Policy and Social Responses to Water Pollution Health Hazards in China

by Kenji Otsuka

March 2019


This article investigates the interaction process between policy and social responses to water pollution health hazards in China, focusing on the case of the Huai River Basin. Since the 1970s, rural communities in the basin have suffered from persistent water pollution health hazards. Through a critical review of the interactions between policy and practices, this article reveals how these two approaches coevolved in the cooperative sphere, that is, a quasi-public sphere under fragmented authoritarianism in China supported by the state, media and environmental non-governmental organizations to address the ecological disaster in and beyond the basin. Additionally, a disconnect between practices in the locality and the policy beyond it can be observed as another side of fragmentation in the field of environment and health issues. Grassroots "micropolitics" such as dialogue, negotiation, cooperation with polluters and local authorities, and innovation as an alternative to the official public work based on social and ecological knowledge are examined to overcome this fragmentation.

Keywords: water pollution, environmental health hazard, environmental policy in China, cooperative sphere, policy and practices, social and ecological knowledge

JEL classification: I14, L31, O44, P28, Q53, Q56, Q57, Q58

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