Water Fight

Nir Elias / Reuters

A boy sits in a pile of algae as his friend runs at a beach in Qingdao, Shandong province in China

The Songhua river in northeastern China doesn't have the history of the Mekong, the spirituality of the Ganges or the sheer power of the Yangtze. But in November 2005, this 1,200-mile (2,000 km) waterway made headlines when a chemical plant in the Chinese city of Jilin spilled massive amounts of the toxic chemical benzene, creating a 50-mile (80 km) noxious slick. The chemicals oozed toward the sea, and Chinese cities that drank from the Songhua were forced to cut off supplies, leaving millions to fend for themselves. As the slick passed over the border to the Russian city of...

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