Defective

By Bryan • china, environment • 12 Apr 2006

More pollution driven unrest in the countryside.

About 200 Chinese villagers, angry over pollution of their water supply, attacked three factories and a sewage treatment plant, a Hong Kong newspaper said on Wednesday.

The villagers in the eastern province of Fujian, some armed with iron bars, smashed windows and appliances on Saturday at the sewage plant, two leather factories and a South Korean-invested plastics factory, the South China Morning Post said.

This brings to mind a conversation I had with two friends last night over bottles of formaldehyde laced Qingdao (heh heh). One of the two friends volunteers at a local Chinese orphanage where she has accumulated enough stories (both heartbreaking and inspiring) to fill several volumes. She was describing that large numbers of children abandoned at the orphanage suffer from a wide variety of what we would probably describe as ‘odd’ birth defects. Gigantism, organ defects, and absence of crucial body parts and other cases of what my friend describes as things she “has never heard of or seen before in her life. Significant numbers of these children originate from the countryside where treatment of such problems largely can place an impossible financial burden upon families. I’ve also noticed considerable numbers of beggars in China suffer from similar deforming diseases. A clean environment is a significant factor in maintaining a healthy population. A major grievance of country dwellers is the common disregard of environmental protection by industrial parties. Farmers often complain that unregulated industrial and agricultural (fertilizer, effluent) discharges are ruining crops and poisoning water, fish and livestock. Carcinogens, and defect causing agents are rampant. The Chinese countryside remains dependent upon the agriculture sector, with the livelihoods and health of tens of millions tied to the well being of their local environment.

One of China’s poorest provinces, and also the epicenter of the coal industry is Shanxi.

China has the largest population in the world and also has the highest incidence of birth defect, with national level at its highest in Shanxi Province. The monitoring data from 1996 showed the national birth defect rate of newborns was 99.62 per ten thousand. In Shanxi, however, the rate was 189.86 per ten thousand on average, and 39 counties had a higher rate of 200-400 per ten thousand and 13 counties had the highest rate of 400 per ten thousand.

However, despite severe environmental degradation, China still boasts some of the lowest birth defect rates in the world.

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2 Responses

  1. Sue

    That is so sad……. and those would not be the children who would be adopted either. The misguided/ignorant North American assumption tends to be that children in China are put in orphanages because of the one child law and poverty. What will happen to such children? It is such a tragedy.

  2. The one child policy still remains a major driving force behind abandoned childern.

    If your child suffers from a birth defect, the probability of success in life and success for the family is diminished. If you happen to be a poor family, it is financially difficult to cover medical fees associated with treatment of such defects and diseases. I suspect that the decision to abandon their childern is a not taken lightly and is probably very hard, yet it is driven largely by necessity.

    Apparently significant numbers of university students leave the childern at orphanages. Products of unwanted pregnancies. I’m told that the Police make weekly trips to the orphanages from the University Cities.

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