Bad Water Ends Long Life in Southern Chinese Town

March 1, 2013 10:00 pm Last Updated: March 4, 2013 8:58 am

Changshou–which literally means “long life” in Chinese–used to be known for its residents’ longevity, with many reaching 100 years old or more. But local authorities have been ignoring complaints that many youngsters have died from cancer in recent years due to contaminated drinking water. 

For years, the environment of the Hunan Province town has been degraded by illegal mining activities, like many other places in China, and official data show the soil is severely polluted with heavy metals.

Illegal gold mining is believed to have started in 1995, and the wastewater is typically released without treatment, killing fish in the local waterways. 

Approximately 20,000 residents have not dared to drink the tap water for the last seven years or so, and have either been collecting water from the mountains or buying bottled water at a high price.

A resident said he only uses tap water in the toilet and for laundry, but not human consumption, Xiaoxiang Morning News reported.

Another resident, Mr. Wu, explained that locals have to spend about 20 yuan (US$12.60) per day on water delivered by people on tricycles, even though they do not earn much. “Life for us peasants is very hard,” he said.

He Junmin, a water deliverer, said, “Sometimes, I deliver more than 100 jugs a day, and no less than 50 or 60,” according to the report.

Mr. Wu added that farm animals also need water not contaminated by poison. Since 2005, many animals got festered mouths or skin ulcers and then died from drinking the poisonous water.

However, a local official, Liu Bengjun, claims that the water quality is still good. He says nearly half of the 40,000 residents with taps installed collect or buy their own water, but the tap water “was examined by county inspectors and there was no problem with the quality.” 

China’s modernization has polluted many rivers, but the pollution of the groundwater in cities is most serious, with about 64 percent heavily polluted, 33 percent mildly polluted, and only 3 percent considered clean, according to a report by China Youth Daily on Feb. 22.

Translated by Jenny Li. Research by Hsin-Yi Lin. Written in English by James Chi.

Read the original Chinese article. 

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