Disappearing River

Proper water treatment has not kept pace with construction in Shenzhen.

The town of Xintang has earned the title 'blue jeans capital.' But local jeans production has come at a huge environmental cost.

A river that was once a primary source of drinking water for Hong Kong has become so polluted that it is now nicknamed 'Black Dragon River.'

The stench from a Dong River tributary causes dizziness. Many people won't eat vegetables grown on its banks.

Farmers employ heavy doses of fertilizers and pesticides when growing fruit trees. The chemical run-off has helped contaminate the Dong River.

Unregulated Mining Leaves Behind Ravaged, Toxic Landscape.

With an eco-system transformed by uncontrolled mining, locals are first to pay the price of China's race to export rare earth metals.

About the Project

Our Cantonese reporter traveled under cover in highly industrialized Guangdong Province to investigate the causes of pollution in the Dong River, a major tributary of the Pearl River. In less than ten years, the river has changed radically for the worse.

The Dong River nourishes agriculture and quenches the thirst of about 50 million people in Guangdong. It is also a primary source of drinking water for the seven million residents of Hong Kong.

The river, once abundant and clear, is now full of silt, weeds, and mud. Some sections have been reduced to muddy yellow puddles less than knee-deep. Construction waste, plastic bags, bottles, and garbage of all kinds cover the shallow riverbed.

Our reporter entered a closed rare-earth mineral mine site and filmed evidence of the devastation caused by an aggressive exploitation policy. China accounts for more than 90 percent of the world's production of rare earths. These minerals are used in magnets, lasers, and nuclear industry equipment among other sophisticated applications. A local policy states that "the mountain returns to those who mine it." This has encouraged wild exploitation by villagers who collect mud in pools of water, add chemicals, and pan the mixture as they would for gold. The wastewater then flows into the river system.

The series is published in Cantonese every Friday, alternating video report and analysis with expert interviews. The series is also broadcast over the air in Cantonese.