Within Zhejiang, one of China’s most prosperous provinces, some towns report that spiking cancer rates linked to water pollution have destroyed locals’ way of life.
Experts claim environmental pollution has produced as many as 500 so-called “cancer villages” across mainland China.
And at least in Zhejiang, the problem may be worsening. A map dating from 2009 and shared by Global Times earlier this year showed only one “cancer village” in Zhejiang, but a recent cover story in magazine Xinmin Weekly identified a handful within the province, and suggested there were “many” more.
At least two are located near industrial zones in Shaoxing county, which has more than 9,000 textile factories and is thought to house one-third of China’s textile-dyeing industry.
In December 2012, Greenpeace reported samples of treated wastewater dumped into the Qiantang River (pictured) by state-owned company Shaoxing Water Treatment Development Co. Ltd. contained “a diverse range of chemicals, many of which have known hazardous properties,” including trace levels of carcinogens.
Shaoxing’s wastewater treatment plant was built to handle up to 1.1 million tons of waste per day.
Residents of Wuli village, near Zhejiang’s capital of Hangzhou, have been petitioning authorities for intervention since a few years after neighboring Nanyang industrial zone was established in 1992.
Villagers say their records show cancer rates started to rise after the zone was built without a “green belt” to serve as buffer between Nanyang’s more than 20 chemical plants and local residences.
Cancer death rates have climbed to eight per year, Wuli locals say, in a town with a population of approximately 1,000.
People’s Daily said recently that environmental pollution’s contribution to rising cancer rates in China has been “underestimated.”
Sources: Xinmin Weekly (新民周刊), People’s Daily
A version of this post first appeared in the China Compliance Digest.