20 Images of China’s Severe Water Pollution

Posted by on Mar 20, 2013 in News | No Comments

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A stream is clogged with rubbish in a small Tibetan town on the Tibetan Plateau. Qinghai Province. 2012

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.

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A man covers his face whilst passing refuse that has gathered on the surface of Dongting Lake, in Hunan Province. 2010

“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

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A figure stands on the edge of a stagnant pool of water in a Tibetan relocation town in Qinghai Province, 2012.

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“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

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A young child walks past a pool of stagnant water in a relocation town on the Tibetan Plateau. Qinghai Province. 2012.

“Half of China’s population (nearly 700 million people) consumes drinking water contaminated with animal and human waste” – World Resources Institute

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A piece of styrofoam washed into a mangrove forest in Guangdong Province. 2010

A dead fish lies on the shore of mangrove ecosystem in Guangdong Province. 2010

A dead fish lies on the shore of mangrove ecosystem in Guangdong Province. 2010

“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.

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A polluted waterway in the town of Sershul in Sichuan Province. 2012

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A pig walks past a pile of refuse that has gathered near a stream on the Tibetan Plateau. 2012

Infographic: Map of Pollution Levels in China’s Major River Basins – Circle of Blue

A man pours waste water into a polluted stream in the town of Sershul, Sichuan Province. 2012

A man pours waste water into a stream in the town of Sershul, Sichuan Province. 2012

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A man swims in the polluted waters of Dongting Lake in Hunan Province. 2010

In China, Water You Wouldn’t Dare Swim in, Let Alone Drink - TIME Magazine

A pool of water is stained a red/orange colour from pollution on the Tibetan Plateau. 2012

A pool of water is stained a red/orange colour from pollution on the Tibetan Plateau. 2012

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Chickens walk across flood water that has encroached upon industrial land during a flood in Hunan Province. 2010.

Water pollution in Asia: The urgent need for prevention and monitoring - Global Water Forum

Yak carcasses are left discarded in and next to a waterway on the grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau. 2012

Yak carcasses are left discarded in and next to a waterway on the grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau. 2012

Hight tide in Guangdong Province brings with it trash and refuse which gathers together with small branches in a mangrove ecosystem. 2010

Hight tide in Guangdong Province brings with it trash and refuse which gathers together with small branches in a mangrove ecosystem. 2010

“Nearly 10 million of China’s 120 million hectares (25 million of 295 million acres) of cultivated land have been polluted.” - Circle of Blue

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Severe eutrophication in a lake in Hangzhou. Excess nutrients in the water from pollution fuel algae growth which in turn reduces oxygen levels in the water killing life beneath. 2010

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Discarded cigarette butts in a pond on the outskirts of Beijing. 2012

Cost of Pollution in China: Economic Estimates of Physical Damage – World Bank

A dead fish lies on the beach in the coastal city of Zhanjiang, in southern China. 2012

A dead fish lies on the beach in the coastal city of Zhanjiang, in southern China. 2012

A frog swims next to a discarded plastic bottle in a pond in the town of Sershul, Sichuan Province. 2012

A frog swims next to a discarded plastic bottle in a pond in the town of Sershul, Sichuan Province. 2012

Refuse gathers on the surface of a pond in the worn of Sershul, in Sichuan Province. 2012

Refuse gathers on the surface of a pond in the worn of Sershul, in Sichuan Province. 2012

A Tibetan boy stands near to  a waterway that has been completely clogged by refuse in a town on the Tibetan Plateau. 2012

A Tibetan boy stands near to a waterway that has been completely clogged by refuse in a town on the Tibetan Plateau. 2012

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