The Yangtze River delta is both one of the country’s most prosperous regions and home to its largest concentration of petrochemical refineries. Here chemical plants stand mere hundreds of meters away from residential districts — with no obvious barriers between them. “Cancer villages” are an increasingly common phenomenon, and traditional lifestyles based on farming and fishing are fading away.
In the winter of 2013, a panic broke out in my hometown Hangzhou,, as residents rushed to buy bottled water after the city river was polluted by the chemical plants situated upstream. In many places, taking photos of industrial waste is forbidden, and it was months before I was able to photograph the plants responsible — and then only from a distance. Over the past few years I have driven 30 thousand kilometers and made countless trips to the scene in order to document the aftermath.