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.
Over 2,200 pigs were found dead in a Shanghai river, and one of the city's main water sources, in early March.
Two illegal chemical plants discharging their production waste water into the rain sewer pipes supposedly caused the Jianhe River in Luoyang, Henan province to turn red in December 2011.
Chaohu Lake in Hefei, Anhui province, is one of the eight rivers and lakes in China that the country plans to treat under a $7.4 billion construction plan.
A dead fish floats in water filled with blue-green algae at the East Lake in Wuhan, Hubei province August 20, 2012.
A manufacturer of screws and nuts is situated next to a polluted river in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province.
Polluted water from a rare earth smelting plant spews into a tailings dam near Xinguang Village. China supplies 97 per cent of rare earths used worldwide, which are used for magnets, bearings and high-tech components that go into computers, vehicles and, increasingly, clean energy technology such as wind turbines and hybrid cars.
Fishermen clean up oil near a major northern Chinese port after a pipeline blast leaked more than 1,600 tons of heavy crude into the sea in July 2010.
A woman walks on a bridge over a polluted river at a suburban area of Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province.
A sewage leak from a copper mine polluted a river and reservoir in July 2010, poisoning more than 4 billion pounds of fish.
Workers clean up floating garbage on the Yangtze Rive near the Three Gorges reservoir in November 2009.
Dead fish, attributed to sewage, are seen at a pond on the outskirts of Wuhan, Hubei province on April 21, 2009.
Children fish in a polluted river covered with algae in Hefei, east China's Anhui province, July 18, 2006.
Potentially lethally polluted river water heads toward Harbin, one of China's biggest cities at 9 million people, after an explosion at a petrochemical plant in November 2005.
Gnats railings along the East Lake in Wuhan, Hubei province in November 2009. The small flies appear in the lake because of water pollution and will leave when the temperature drops.
A man swims in canal polluted with algae blooms caused by heat, in the centre of Beijing on August 16, 2007.
A fisherman jumps from his boat to the bank after fishing in the morning at a polluted river in Hefei, in east China's Anhui province, March 8, 2007.
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