Deng Fei, a renowned Chinese journalist and social activist, is conducting an interesting survey over Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. He’s asked a simple question: “What is the river like in your hometown? While celebrating Chinese New Year at home, please take a photo of your river and upload it to Weibo for us to see.” This clearly touched a nerve, as it has resulted in hundreds of photos of extremely dirty-looking rivers being sent in from all over the country.
Some of those writing in blame factories for polluting their rivers; others point to garbage dumped by local residents. What’s certain is that the results aren't pretty.
The issue of polluted waters has been gaining increasing amounts of attention online as of late. Recently, an entrepreneur in Zhejiang took to Weibo to offer a 200,000 yuan (about 24,000 euro) reward to the local environmental protection bureau chief – but only if he agrees to swim in a polluted river for 20 minutes. The photos he posted of this river show it overflowing with garbage.
Last year, thousands of people protested against local government in the coastal city of Qidong over concern that a planned industrial waste pipeline would result in the sea’s pollution. The project ended up being scrapped.
Here are a couple of the answers Deng Fei received directly on Weibo:
"If you want to investigate pollution of water underground, please come to Heze. There are many chemical plants here, but there is no formal sewage treatment plant. Waste water has been pumped into the ground for a decade. My home town is 30 kilometres from the city, and since we don’t have running water, we drink water from the ground. The water has tasted bitter for several years now. People don’t know if it’s harmful; please help us."
"Neijing River is the main river in Honghu, Hubei province. It connects Honghu Lake to the Yangtze River. Ten years ago, people swam, rowed dragon boats, and washed their vegetables in the river. Now, the river is covered in weeds and garbage. I hope the government can do something to save our lakes and rivers."

“People who live near the canal cannot open their windows because of the stink”

Li Yan lives in Yichang, located in Hubei province. She explained why she answered Deng Fei’s question:
The picture I sent in is of a canal in my community, which flows into the Yangtze River [Editor’s Note: the Yangtze River is the longest river in all of Asia]. The canal is littered with garbage. The residents along the canal throw the garbage and emit waste water into it directly. During the summer, after it rains, the water stinks terribly. People who live near the canal cannot open their windows. Old people tell us that in the past it was heavenly – they caught fish and could swim in the canal.