But not a drop to drink….

Photojournalist Stephen Voss has posted an extraordinary story on water pollution in Henan Province, as well as an array of photographs that go straight to the heart. (Click the link on his site to view thumbnails, and read the captions to the photos; some are quite heartbreaking.)

A snippet from his story:

The cancer ward of Shenqiu County Hospital is busy on this weekday morning. Bicycles and motorbikes are scattered around the dusty brick courtyard and a white doctor’s jacket hangs from a tree to dry. A line of people stand outside a small one-story concrete building, patiently waiting their turn for a few minutes with Dr. Wang Yong Zeng, the chief oncologist. Most carry their life’s medical records with them, clutching the thick folders full of X-rays and documents tightly to their chest.

Shenqiu County, in the eastern part of Henan Province, has seen occurrences of stomach, liver, esophageal and intestinal cancer rise dramatically in the past fifteen years. Houses sit empty where whole families have died, villagers are bedridden with sicknesses they are too poor to have diagnosed and many continue to drink the polluted water because there is no other option. The majority of the 150 million people that live along the Huai River Basin are farmers, and depend on the river water to irrigate their crops. Unfortunately, the Huai is one of the most polluted stretches of water in the country.

“Many people come here after it’s too late,” says Dr. Yong Zeng as he holds an X-ray up to the window light to examine it. Poor farmers suffer for months and even years before they go to the hospital, knowing that if they are diagnosed with cancer, they won’t be able to afford any treatment. In many villages, entire families go into debt for medical bills they will never be able to pay.

China’s handling of the environment has been nothing if not consistent over the past two thousand years. It is difficult to find a time in China’s history when anything but environmental devastation occurred in the name of economic and social progress. As far back as 202 BC, the Han Dynasty dealt with the growing population by urging its people to cut down forests to make way for more farmland.

Lots more, if you have the strength.

The Discussion: 2 Comments

Oustanding source for my geo class, Richard. Thanks a lot for the link.

January 9, 2006 @ 9:00 pm | Comment

River pollution in China

Not your usual river pollution story. Lots of pics of the people whose lives are affected by the mess that is the infamous Huai River Basin. See Stephen Voss’s site for more. Thanks to Richard for spotting this one.

January 10, 2006 @ 10:51 pm | Comment

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