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China's Toxic Water

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On World Water Day, I'd like to share with you a strong collection of images from southern China, showing local activists fighting against industrial pollution in their waterways, and cancer sufferers in so-called "cancer villages", linked to pollution from hazardous chemicals. Earlier this year, China's environment ministry released a report officially acknowledging the existence of these villages for the first time and signaling its willingness to address toxic water pollution. Greenpeace reached out to World Press Photo award-winner Lu Guang and other photographers to bear witness and has allowed me to share their images here on World Water Day, in an effort to bring this environmental and human tragedy to the world's attention. Photos and captions were provided by the photographers and Greenpeace. [17 photos]

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A woman fetches water from the Yangtze river. Fifty families of fishermen live in Yanglingang village. They fish for their livelihood and have been drinking water from the Yangtze for decades. In the last few years, however, the river has been significantly polluted, and the fishermen noticed that the water has a strange flavor. Since 2003, factory construction has erupted all around Yanglingang. Today the little fishing village is surrounded by power plants, paper-making factories, and chemical plants. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace)
A woman fetches water from the Yangtze river. Fifty families of fishermen live in Yanglingang village. They fish for their livelihood and have been drinking water from the Yangtze for decades. In the last few years, however, the river has been significantly polluted, and the fishermen noticed that the water has a strange flavor. Since 2003, factory construction has erupted all around Yanglingang. Today the little fishing village is surrounded by power plants, paper-making factories, and chemical plants. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace)
Dongying Wei and her husband Guantong Shao have been investigating environmental pollution for over a decade. They have reported their findings to Chinese government officials and more than one thousand villagers have signed up to show their support. Despite this, nothing has changed. Wuli Village, Nanyang Town, Xiaoshan District, Hangzhou City. (© Fan Jing Cheng/Greenpeace) #
Dongying Wei records pollution levels from the wastewater ditches surrounding a chemical plant. Wuli Village, Nanyang Town, Hangzhou City. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace) #
Worker Li Bairong is 54 years old and from Sanjiang Village he has been diagnosed with esophagus cancer, the exact causes are unknown. The area where he lives has been severely affected by water pollution. In February 2013, the Chinese government acknowledged for the first time the existence of "cancer villages" linked to pollution from hazardous chemicals. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace) #
Smoke billows from from chimneys belonging to the dyeing factories in the Shaoxing Binhai Industrial Zone. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace) #
Family members visit grave of Li Bairong in Shaoxing. He died of esophagus cancer, the exact cause unknown, becoming the fourth individual to die of cancer in his family history. The family lives in Shaoxing, an area that has been severely affected by water pollution from industry, especially the textile and dyeing industry. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace) #
Chen Guokang from Sanjiang village is 51 years old and diagnosed with lung cancer, the exact causes unknown. The yellow nature of his eyes and skin are due to the cancer spreading, affecting his liver, and causing jaundice. The area where he lives has been severely affected by water pollution. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace) #
A view of Wuli Village, in Nanyang Town, Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China. (© Fan Jing Cheng/Greenpeace) #
Dongying Wei has been investigating environmental pollution for over a decade. She and her husband have reported their findings to government officials and more than one thousand villagers have signed up to show their support. Despite this, nothing has changed. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace) #
View from Qiantangjiang Dam. Many villagers use this part of the river near Wuli Village for fishing. (© Fan Jing Cheng/Greenpeace) #
Bao Jiefu from Xinsunrui village in Shaoxing is 68 years old and was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 2008, the exact cause unknown. The area where he lives has been severely affected by water pollution. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace) #
Cancer sufferer Mr. Wang is one of many cancer victims from his village near Wuxi city in Jiangsu Province. While the exact causes are unknown, he believes his illness was caused by using water polluted by local industries. In February 2013, the Chinese government acknowledged for the first time the existence of "cancer villages" linked to pollution from hazardous chemicals. (© Zhao Yan/Greenpeace) #
Chemical dye plant and pigment factory discharge pipes. (© Fan Jing Cheng/Greenpeace) #
A portrait of Wang Changgen hangs on a wall, he died of esophagus cancer, exact cause unknown. The village where he lived is in Shaoxing, an area that has been severely affected by water pollution. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace) #
Doctor Chen Dawei is treating an elderly patient on a boat. When the fishermen are very sick, they call a doctor from a small clinic. The patient, Xu Changlian, and his wife Wang Jinnan both have cancer. Wang's cancer has worsened; she has given up treatment and is no longer able to speak. The couple takes care of each other at home. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace) #
Wang Jinlan, a fisherwoman from Yanglingang, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, exact cause unkown. Her cancer returned again in 2009, and, according to her doctor, it was already in the advanced stages. Her husband, Xu Changlian, has esophageal cancer and can no longer work. She passed away in April of 2010, four months after this picture was taken. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace) #
Dongying Wei witnesses pollution from a chemical plant in Wuli Village. (© Lu Guang/Greenpeace) #

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