“Each day, villagers here die of cancer one after another by breathing odorous air and drinking polluted water,” wrote Wei Dongying in her “environmental diary.”
Wei is a fisherman's wife in Wuli Village, Xiaoshan City, Zhejiang Province in south-east China. Fascinated by the beauty of the coastal town, Wei moved to this village from her hometown in Jiangxi Province, and later married a local fisherman. Wei started her “environmental diary” in 2003 to record her bitter struggle against pollution. However, she wasn't able to stop the opening of the first chemical plant and galvanized factory, nor the dozens of other factories that ensued. The village has been gradually nibbled away.
While Wei fills up many diary books with pollution records, and the fishes in her husband's net are becoming less and less, a chemical industrial park extending hundreds of miles south along the Qiantang River has formed next to Hangzhou City, a city used to be called “heaven on Earth.”
Wei's village is located in the economically booming zone along east coastal China which runs over 600 miles, starting from costal province of Zhejiang, encompassing Shanghai City, Jiangsu and Shandong provinces, and ending at Bohai Straight. The area's economy has been surging in the past few decades, but at a price the local residents just cannot afford for their lives. Due to increasing pollution, in recent years cancer has been afflicting numerous villages in this area.
Wei Dongying has become famous for her environmental diary as well as her regular visits to the city's Environmental Protection Bureau. She and her husband have spent over 20,000 yuan (US$2,475) traveling back and forth to take pictures of pollutant discharge outlets into the Qiantang River. She is not only worried for her village but for the lives of millions endangered by the chemical plants along Qiantang River.
The incidence and mortality rates of cancer in China have been increasing since the 1970s. Since 1997, cancer has been the top killer in China, causing over 1.3 million deaths each year. In the year 2000, the occurrence of cancer reached 1.8 million to 2 million and the number of cancer deaths reached 1.4 million.
According to researches conducted by Huang Wei, an environmental expert of the Zhejiang Provincial Environmental Monitor Center, general water pollution has directly caused the high occurrence of cancer in China.