Coordinates: 31 5 N 120 10 E
Approximate area: 930 sq. mi (2,409 sq. km)
As the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Games have crept closer, China has scrambled to prepare Beijing, its capital city, for the fans, families, athletes, trainers, and dignitaries that will attend the Olympics in August. With an urban population topping ten million, dealing with pollution was one of the bigger challenges faced by organizers. But environmental contamination isn’t only a problem for the people living in and around the world’s major metropolises. South of Beijing and west of Shanghai, Tai Lake near the mouth of the Yangtse is one of the country’s largest freshwater bodies. It’s also heavily polluted. Once a scenic basin in a fertile agricultural region, Tai Lake has seen its beauty diminished by unchecked levels of human and industrial waste. Protests have compelled the government to take action, but the algae-choked water remains unfit for consumption.
Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.