China: Cancer Villages Do Exist


B. McPherson
Air and water pollution threatens China's future.

China has taken one small step towards cleaning up their heavily polluted country. They have acknowledged the existence of “Cancer Villages”. Until the recently they have denied that they exist. These villages are in close proximity to industrial operations which until now have had free rein to dump their toxic waste into surface and ground water.

The resulting pollution has rendered about 20% of the rivers in China so polluted that they are no longer useful for industrial use. The water that people are forced to use for washing and drinking is also heavy with toxins. In the Cancer Villages as many as 80% of the people are suffering from various cancers.

Greenpeace activists in China have been urging the People’s government to take action on the release of toxins into the environment since 1997. They hail the acknowledgement of the problem and a five year plan to eliminate some of the most toxic chemicals as a breakthrough.

“It’s our hope that this announcement is quickly implemented and enforced – about half of China’s rivers are not suitable for domestic use, and around 20% are deemed useless even for industrial purposes. We simply cannot wait any longer.” Greenpeace

In the rush to become the world’s leading manufacturer, China has generally ignored laws banning the dumping of poisons into waterways. Corruption and bribes may often be employed to keep the enforcers quiet. Pollution of both the air and water is reaching a crisis point. The east coast of the country has been blanketed in a thick, toxic smog for over a month. Groundwater beneath Beijing is heavily polluted.

Urgent action is needed. Will it be undertaken? Yesterday Radio Free Asia carried a story about a river so black and polluted that it was dangerous to touch the water. When a businessman publicized the plight of the locals, the locals were blamed for throwing trash into the river. The spokesperson acknowledged that some spillage from the rubber boot factory might have occurred, but there was no evidence of it.


“Retired Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang said a close-knit network of vested interests at local level meant that polluting enterprises were hardly ever brought to book.
"The government and local business are all in it together, because the government needs the tax revenue from business," Sun said.
"Also, some officials go into business on their own account, and the environmental authorities turn a blind eye to any pollution produced by their enterprises." Radio Free Asia

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