Bloggers Put China’s Pollution on the Map

Ellen Zhu at the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report writes about a collaborative Google Maps project to document China’s heavily polluted areas:

“My goal is to get as many people working on the map as possible so that everybody can help to expose the pollution problem,” said Guo Baofeng, the Fujian-based blogger and founder of the program.

Now, the map shows roughly 40 pollution sites, ranging from villages in Shanxi, where birth defects thought to be caused by toxic pollutants have been found, to a place in Fujian recently reporting a large group of children being tested with excessive lead levels in their blood. A major clue that Guo used to start up the map is a photo album of Lu Guang, the Chinese freelance photographer who won this year’s Eugene Smith prize for photos of scenes from Chinese pollution disasters and their victims.

The photo album has been the focus of discussion in many Internet forums and chat rooms recently. The one exhibited on Douban.com has counted more than 1,300 comments over the past two weeks. Guo and public contributors have been expanding the map’s coverage with more information from Chinese media, research reports and clues of Chinese environmental activists.

Zhu also notes that this is not the first online map to document environmental problems; in 2007, a “Beijing-based environmental NGO published an air pollution map as far back as 2007 and named thousands of alleged pollution makers, including many multinational companies.” In addition, another map, charting China’s “cancer villages,” was published on Google Maps this past May.

November 4, 2009 6:48 PM
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Categories: Environment, Society