The unhealthy smog that settled over Beijing earlier this year, capturing international media attention, is not the only visible sign of China’s rapid economic growth and the resulting environmental hazards.
Countless rivers and lakes have also been contaminated by nearby factories, and sometimes, dumping by local residents.
This March, more than 2,000 dead pigs were found floating in a Shanghai river, a main water source for the city’s 23 million residents.
Polluted water sources have been linked to a rise in “cancer villages,” or areas where cancer rates are high among people who live along tainted waterways.
Time’s Gu Yongqiang contends that China’s failure to address environmental problems isn’t grounded by technical or financial constraints, but rather an overwhelming lack of motivation by authorities.
Mounting public outrage, largely aided by the power of social media, is starting to push officials to take action.
Last week, the state-run China Daily newspaper announced the country’s plan to spend $16 billion over the next three years to deal with Beijing’s pollution, Reuters reported.
A look at the current state of China’s water systems — some turned bright green by algae blooms or blood red from chemicals — suggests that this is only the very start of a massive and much-needed cleanup.