China is trying to feed 20 percent of the world’s population on 7 percent of the world’s arable land. A third of the world uses water from China’s rivers. But rapid industrialization and climate change have led to bad air, polluted rivers and drought. Environmental activists, Party officials, academics and scientists are in a daily struggle over the damage to nature in China.
Environmental campaigner Huo Daishan has been trying to save the heavily polluted Huai River, which provides water for 150 million people. Research took him to its main tributary, the Shaying, into which over a million tons of raw human sewage and untreated waste water are dumped daily. Rather than clamping down on polluters, local government protects local industries.
Along the Huai’s main tributary, 50,000 people suffer from cancer. In one village alone, 118 people have died. The Deputy Minister of the Environment accepts that many cancer cases are related to environmental pollution, but says he is powerless to shut down polluting companies.
Other stories explore northern China’s dire water shortage, which is being remedied by channelling water from the south in what will be the biggest hydraulic project in world history. A project in the arid Ningxia region has benefited nearly half a million people, but elsewhere relocation from dam areas, like the Three Gorges, is causing huge social upheaval.