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China’s Rivers Run Red

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“The East is Red”, Mao used to say. We’re not sure this is what he had in mind. The Daily Mail has the best collection of photos on this phenomenon on the internet right now.

The Mail goes on to report that it’s not the first time something like this has happened in China:

Last December, the Jian River in the city of Luoyang, in the north Henan province, turned red after becoming polluted by a powerful dye. The dye was being dumped into the city’s storm drain network by two illegal dye workshops. Officials raided the factories to shut them down, and then disassembled their machinery.

We’ll see what happened this time—whether this is another example of an individual polluter grossly skirting Chinese laws, or some kind of biological reaction to a chemical or metal in the water that has built up over time. Regardless, this is yet another vivid example of the consequences of China’s massive, breakneck industrialization.

Nothing on the scale of China’s industrial growth has ever happened anywhere in the world. It is an experiment on a vast scale and the outcome isn’t known. But one thing is clear: each year the challenges facing China’s government mount as the social, environmental, political and economic challenges grow. Managing the necessary tradeoffs between economic growth and environmental health is just one of China’s challenges and perhaps not the hardest.

But when your rivers run red, that is usually not a sign that things are going well.

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