Facing higher pollution levels in one of
its streams, Hoeryong City officials are imposing fees on residents to build necessary water purification facilities, despite their relative blamelessness in the matter; the existing pollution largely
stems from chemicals employed by the state for gold mining.
“A gold mine was built around Changdu near
Hoeryong, and the water coming from there has severely polluted the Hoeryong
Stream,” a source from North Hamkyung Province said on
Tuesday. “They’re using
potassium cyanide in the process of digging up gold, which flows into Hoeryong
stream and gives those ingesting the water from there severe stomach aches and/or
Potassium cyanide is highly toxic and mostly used in the North to lay traps for pheasants or rabbits, according to
the source. The state, however, indiscriminately employs the chemical in the mining sector to remove iron, zinc, and other
impurities from the gold.
“The problem eventually got so out of
control the authorities decided to build a water treatment facility,” the source explained. “But since the
inminban [people’s unit] are currently low on funds, they ordered each household to pay 100,000 KPW [12.50 USD].”
Persistent complaints among residents about
the increasingly polluted water prompted the state to try to resolve the
problem, which only served to fuel the discontent among the populace, who justifiably point out that the solution hinges on fees forced on a population already beset by economic hardship.
“Many people have been saying they can’t fathom paying 100,000 KPW since it’s hard
enough to get by each day,” the source said. “The orders came down more than two weeks ago, but no one has
voluntarily offered to pay their sum yet.”
“Not so long ago, a high-ranking Party
cadre paid 100,000 KPW in what can only be considered an attempt to encourage
others to follow suit.” the source said, quickly adding that it was rather futile. “People have remained
resolute in their determination to avoid coughing up the money, saying that
any money that cadre gave came from taking advantage of other regular people
North Korea faces a severe lack of adequate
drinking water and the capital to construct conventional filtration plants necessary to supply it. Coastal areas are often worse off; derelict pipes in Hwanghae Province and areas bordering the ocean frequently usher in at best, rusty water; and at worst, water teeming with
worms or other insects.
“If someone falls ill from consuming polluted water,
the state usually just quarantines them,” a senior North Korean defector told the Daily NK. “That’s not all though. They usually tell people to boil their water and apply
other temporary solutions. When people suggest building a water treatment, the
authorities unfailingly respond, ‘Then pay up.’”
*The contents of this article were broadcast to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.