The State of Water Pollution in China

The state of water pollution in China is alarming. It is an unfortunate yet all-too-true fact that developing nations tend to ravage the environment as they climb to power. The United States famously destroyed a good portion of its natural resources during the 1800’s when citizens of every kind raced toward Manifest Destiny. Britain caused a great deal of its own pollution during this same time frame with the Industrial Revolution. India has been having problems preserving their beautiful landscape as their economy pushes them toward becoming a world power.

Water Pollution in China

However, recent articles on water pollution reveal that perhaps the most pervasive contamination of all is found in China, where burgeoning financial success is also bringing huge environmental failures. Most notably, China’s water sources are abominably unclean.

There are certainly other conservation causes in China that need attention, but none are as dangerous or widespread as the water pollution in China. 70% of Chinese lakes and rivers are polluted, not to mention 90% of their groundwater (which constitutes most of the “potable” water people use for drinking, cooking, etc.) This pollution means that 320 million Chinese citizens have no clean drinking water.

The facts about water pollution in China aren’t pretty by any means. To make matters worse, almost every day a large-scale pollution incident occurs, and there is little or no regulation infrastructure in place to prevent, much less deal with, these contaminations.

Water Pollution in China Rivers

Water pollution in China is not merely a nuisance; it is a danger. Although Chinese bureaucrats will of course claim otherwise, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently estimated that 75% of all disease in China comes from water pollution.

As we learn more about the water pollution crisis in China, it becomes abundantly clear that they have a severe lack of officials who know how to stop water pollution. Dirty water has caused so much cancer that people living along polluted water sources are often said to live in “cancer villages,” and are lucky if they reach their prime without contracting a terminable disease. Inevitably, such practices take their toll. WHO puts the number of Chinese water-pollution-related deaths at 100,000 per year.

This shocking mortality rate could easily be prevented if China’s government would change their attitude about regulation. Responsible parties currently get away with extreme pollution and the Chinese government quickly and quietly covers up each scandal to save face largely due to these lax restrictions.

Yet there comes a point at which hiding is no longer an option. International attention was aroused in 2005 when a Chinese petro-chemical plant exploded, shooting 100 tons of benzene into the Songhua River. Despite dealing with similarly atrocious spills on a frequent basis, China’s government officials did not move fast enough this time, and journalists around the world exposed China’s appalling environmental policies.

The international community began on ongoing campaign pressuring China to hold itself accountable for pollution, which means not only punishing and restricting the companies that break environmental laws, but also allowing the facts about water pollution to be accessed by the public.

Happily, this outside encouragement is getting results. China now openly acknowledges what WHO already knew: that their water is in a deplorable state of contamination. Pan Yue, the Vice Minister of China’s environmental protection department, admits that crisis with the environment, especially for water, has reached China much earlier than expected.

Pan Yue’s statement is essentially a delicate confession that China has finally realized the impact they are having not just on their immediate territory, but on the planet and its people at large. Sources of water pollution can cause damage miles away. Citizens on the Pacific Coast of the USA are particularly concerned about China’s polluted water reaching them in tidal currents. Consumers of Chinese goods, who number in the millions, have also voiced trepidation about Chinese imports and their safety standards.

Hopefully with international voices as their conscience, China will continue its progress in a greener, safer way, so that water pollution in China will take its rightful place as a thing of the past.