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Edit Title:[HugChina] Cancer village Shangba - village of death
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Bernd Chang
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Shangba (Chinese: 上坝) is an agricultural village in Guangdong. Recently, the village has come to be known as China's 'Village of Death' among the hundreds of cancer villages in China due to the extremely high incidence of cancer in its population.

Water spurts from a well near the Dabaoshan mine which, like most in China, has not faced strict environmental controls in recent years. An estimated 460,000 people die prematurely in China each year due to exposure to air and water pollution, according to a 2007 World Bank study. Besides mining for coal, China has a large mine industry around heavy metals used to make batteries, computer parts and other electronic devices.

Shangba (Chinese: 上坝) is a village of about 3,300 villagers in Guangdong Province, China. It is an agricultural village, with rice and sugar cane being major crops. Recently, the village has come to be known as China's "Village of Death" among the hundreds of cancer villages in China due to the extremely high incidence of cancer in its population.

The presumed source of the pollution is the Dabaoshan Mine for zinc, once Asia's largest mine for this mineral. The village's crops are also highly contaminated.

Just south of Liangqiao, in southern China’s Guangdong province is the small village of Shangba. On the surface, this community of roughly 3,300 appears to be a tranquil, rural village comprised of sugar cane fields and plentiful rice paddies.

When a closer look is taken, the people of Shangba have been living with a malevolent curse for years. In fact, this town is now known as “Village of Death.” It has earned this name because, over time, cancer has claimed the lives of approximately 80 percent of the Shangba townspeople. It seems that no one living in Shangba, young or old, is safe from the threat of cancer.

Since 1987, there have been more than 250 confirmed cancer-related deaths. The majority of cancers have involved the liver and digestive system. Along with cancer, a significant number of Shangba citizens also suffer from skin disorders and kidney stones.

The source of this epidemic of cancer is most likely coming from the water, both river and ground water. Today the Hengshui River has been referred to as “The Dead River,” and with good reason.

Along the shore of the Hengshui, are sections of rocks that have been dyed a dark brown, almost rusty, color. Much of the rock is also covered with a mysterious matter and a black, metallic sediment extends along the shoreline. If there are any living creatures that frequent the banks of this dirty river, they are few and far between.

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Bernd Chang
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Water spurts from a well near the Dabaoshan mine which, like most in China, has not faced strict environmental controls in recent years. An estimated 460,000 people die prematurely in China each year due to exposure to air and water pollution, according to a 2007 World Bank study. Besides mining for coal, China has a large mine industry around heavy metals used to make batteries, computer parts and other electronic devices.

5200050-cancer-village-01-450x300.jpg



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Bernd Chang
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Shangba village has around 3000 residents who own about 2300 mu (1mu=0.067 hector) of farmland and 350 fishery pools. This village was once rice production base and had the fame of "Village of fish and rice".

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The river that starts at the lake near Dabaoshan flows through the town of Shangba. Zhang Jingjing, a lawyer who is helping local residents, said the mine has promised to distribute a few thousand yuan to all villagers every year. Even though the funds will barely cover medical expenses, Zhang says it is an encouraging first step. “This means the mine admits it is polluting the environment,“ he said. “If it did no wrong, it won't give out this money.“

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Bernd Chang
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This river carries reddish brown water from a lake near a heavy metals mine through towns in southern China's Shangba region. The flow ranges from a bright shade of orange to a murky white, and the waters are so viscous that they barely ripple in the breeze. “All the fish died, even chickens and ducks that drank from the river died. “ said He Shuncai, a 34-year-old rice farmer, “Last year alone, six people in our village died from cancer and they were in their 30s and 40s.“

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Bernd Chang
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Currently the water of Hengshi River is gaudy in color and so viscous that it barely ripples in the breeze.

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A dying plant stands in the contaminated lake near the Dabaoshan mine in the Shangba region. Tests published by a medical lab in July show that the lake and river contain excessive amounts of cadmium, a heavy metal that is a known carcinogen, as well as zinc, which in large quantities can damage the liver and lead to cancer.

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Guangdong government and Dabaoshan Mining Co., Ltd. built a canal in 2006 in order to bring water collected from rains and mountain springs in a reservoir to Shangba village, but the open canal and landslide resulted in unsuitability of the water for drinking and cooking.

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So the villagers have no choice but to use water in wells they have digged. Test results conducted by Biomed Central showed that the water pumped from wells contains excessive cadmium and zinc. (Picture shows a villager pumps water from a well )

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Shangba villager He Kangcai, 60, is among those in the region suffering from stomach cancer. The residents of what some are calling China's “cancer villages“ struggle to pay for medical care, often going into debt to cover pharmaceutical and doctors' bills. “An official did come to give me our compensation, 20 yuan ($3),“ said Liang Xiti, whose husband died of stomach cancer at the age of 46. His medicines alone cost the family 800 yuan a month, she said.

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Yun Yaoshun, 82, lives in the town of Shangba and watched her son, 54, and two granddaughters, just 12 and 18, die of cancer of the kidneys and stomach even though these types of cancers rarely affect children. The World Health Organization has suggested that the high rate of such digestive cancers are due to the ingestion of polluted water.

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Residents of the Shangba region are trying to be more careful about what water they use. This villager in the town of Liangqiao fills up a barrel with water from an uncontaminated stream. Few families downstream from the Dabaoshan mine have been left untouched by cancer. The most common cancers are those of the stomach, liver, kidney and colon. Cancer incidence rates are not available, but it is sure that they are far higher than the national average.

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The lake near the Dabaoshan mine is a murky brown. Heavy metals are not just in the water, but also the food chain. Mounds of tailings from the mine are discarded alongside rice fields throughout the region. “If you test this rice, it will be toxic but we eat it too, otherwise, we will starve,“ said He, the farmer, as he shoveled freshly milled rice into a sack. “Yes, we sell this rice too.“

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Bernd Chang
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China has become the second largest economy of the world with rapid economic growth during the last 30 years, but millions of Chinese sacrifice a lot for that. An estimated 460,000 people die prematurely in China each year due to exposure to air and water pollution, according to a 2007 World Bank study.

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Counties with cancer villages, Guangdong Province, China, 2009.

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Google Earth map of Dabaoshan area showing the mines and five cancer villages.

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