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'Cancer villages' alarm water pollution crisis

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-09-11 21:50

JINAN - Wang Guixiang has to buy purified water for her family as people in her village do not dare to drink the water from the well anymore, due to serious pollution.

"The well, which was our source of drinking water for years,is just one kilometer away from an industrial park with chemical plants. Water in a river nearby has turned black," complained Wang from Xinzhuangzi Village, in North China's Hebei province.

"Household tap water turns yellow sometimes and we are afraid to drink it," she said. Villagers rely on a single purification device which the village bought two years ago for their drinking water.

Xinzhuangzi was one of the "cancer villages" listed in a thesis paper on the geographical distribution of such villages in China, written in 2009 by Sun Yuefei, a graduate in geography at Central China Normal University in Wuhan city.

The paper claimed the number of such villages should be more than 247 in some 27 provinces or regions on the mainland, but the figures could not be officially confirmed.

"Our three sons all buy purified water to drink as they fear that dirty water may affect their fertility," said another woman surnamed Sun in the same village.

Villages troubled by polluted drinking water and a rise of cancer cases are not rare in China. They are mainly in the developed eastern and coastal regions.

In Hezuitou village, northwestern Shaanxi province, 46 people died of cancer between 1991 and 2003.

"The water in the well tasted sweet before the 1990s, but since the early 1990s, the water had a different smell," said 54-year-old villager Liu Jiqing.

There were paper mills and oil plants near the village. The factories have since closed but untreated domestic sewage and industrial waste  continues to pollute a local river and groundwater.

"The years when there was a high rate of cancer were also the period of most serious pollution," said Du Weimin, Communist Party chief of Duying village, in Zhoukou city, Central China's Henan province.

Around ten deaths from cancer were reported each year in Duying village between 2003 and 2010. The village is near the Shaying River, a tributary of the Yellow River, the country's second longest.

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