Water pollution has been in the news a lot recently in China. The most notable story that has been circulating of late was the discovery of over 13,000 dead pigs in the Huangpu River outside of Shanghai. It’s another in a long line of stories that highlight the challenges that China faces in managing its waterways as the nation continues its rush to develop.
Reading the coverage of this story led me to think about some of the examples of water pollution I have witnessed in my 6 1/2 years criss-crossing China, documenting some of the country’s most pressing environmental crises. Polluted waterways have not been a rare sight on my travels.
So, here I present a selection of what I believe are some of the most severe examples of water pollution I have witnessed. From the Tibetan Plateau to China’s coastal cities, no region is exempt from the scourge of water pollution.
Explore the links between the images to learn more about the facts behind the water pollution crisis in China.
“In China, 320 million people are without access to clean drinking water and 190 million people are drinking water severely contaminated with hazardous chemicals.” – Greenpeace
“Underground water in 57 percent of monitoring sites across Chinese cities have been found polluted or extremely polluted.” - Economic Information Daily/Xinhua quoting Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection
“Half of China’s population (nearly 700 million people) consumes drinking water contaminated with animal and human waste” – World Resources Institute
“There is hardly a stream in China that doesn’t have somebody putting [something] into it or taking water out of it…Everything is messed up with pollution, pipes taking off water for agriculture, for industry, for household use [and] building weirs across rivers to divert the water into little gullies.” – John MacKinnon – EU-China Biodiversity Programme – Interview, March 2011.
Infographic: Map of Pollution Levels in China’s Major River Basins – Circle of Blue
In China, Water You Wouldn’t Dare Swim in, Let Alone Drink - TIME Magazine
Water pollution in Asia: The urgent need for prevention and monitoring - Global Water Forum
“Nearly 10 million of China’s 120 million hectares (25 million of 295 million acres) of cultivated land have been polluted.” - Circle of Blue
Cost of Pollution in China: Economic Estimates of Physical Damage – World Bank