Inside China’s “Cancer Villages”

The Guardian’s Jonathan Kaiman talks to residents of some of China’s hundreds of “cancer villages” about the obstacles to their efforts to seek redress:

Yanglingang residents count their home as one of China’s “ ” – small communities near polluting factories where rates have soared far above the national average. Chinese media, academics and NGOs estimate that the country is home to 459 of them, spread across every province except far-western Qinghai and Tibet.

[…] In February, the ministry of environmental protection mentioned cancer villages in its latest five-year plan – the only ministry-level acknowledgement of the issue since it was first reported in 1998. Chinese NGOs and activists hailed the report as a much-needed step towards environmental transparency. Yet interviews in three cancer villages across two provinces revealed that many central and local authorities continue to treat the issue as they long have: with denial, intimidation and silence. Even the environmental ministry’s acknowledgement was a mistake, said Chen Wanqing, deputy head of China’s national cancer registry. The ministry has been reprimanded.

[…] Experts say that, as China’s affluent provinces become more environmentally progressive, officials often shunt polluting factories to poorer western regions where their environmental impact may go unchecked. “Polluting industries will keep moving inland as inland regions continue to follow the ‘grow first’ approach to development,” wrote University of Central Missouri professor Lee Liu in a 2010 report. [Source]

See also A Map of China’s Cancer Villages from 2009 via CDT.