Villagers pay high cost for life beside contaminated riverbank
“After drinking the dirty water, many villagers developed cancers of the digestive system,” a 32-year-old woman told me.
She added that people with cancer can be found in every village along the riverbank.
This has been confirmed by medical experts. A report released in June by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the cancer rate along the Shaying River is much higher than normal.
The county government has attributed the pollution to historical factors, saying the river has been polluted since the 1980s.
In another cancer patient’s home, I tasted the water pumped from the well in his yard. It was muddy, with a salty and bitter taste.
The man bought two bottles of water and gave me one, saying, “Drink this, it’s safe.” He and his brother have to drink from the well. They cannot afford bottled water every day.
He told me cancer has claimed many lives in the village, and that many victims die at an early age.
Those who survive struggle for a living, and must take a cocktail of pills every day to stop their tumors from spreading.
“Dying a natural death has become an unrealistic dream for villagers here,” he said with a sigh.