In the latest report released by Greenpeace, the advocacy group accuses the Shenhua Group, which mines a majority of the China’s coal, of knowingly discharging poisonous wastewater into local water supplies.
China’s new leadership is already under heavy pressure to reform pollution standards and address growing concerns over the dwindling state of the environment. The government cancelled plans to construct a $6bn (£4bn) uranium processing plant after riots and protests broke out in the streets.
Although the government is facing increased scrutiny, a few companies are still managing to slip through the cracks. According to Greenpeace, Shenhua’s coal-to-liquid processing facility outside Ordo City has drained more than 50m tonnes of groundwater from the Haolebaoji region since 2006.
That’s water that very poor, very hungry and thirsty people should be entitled to.
But not only is Shenhua sucking up available resources, its poisoning what’s left. Greenpeace claims that, after 11 trips to the region between March and July of this year, their scientists discovered frightening levels of toxic chemicals and other carcinogenic compounds in discharged wastewater and nearby sediment.
"Shenhua claims its coal-to-liquid project has 'low water consumption' and 'zero discharge'. Our investigation proves these claims are false," says Deng Ping, a member of Greenpeace East Asia. "Shenhua's practices are violating Chinese water resource principles and laws controlling industrial waste water discharge."
As a result, farmers are being forced to relocate. Residents are being forced travel farther for drinking water. Companies like Shenhua are uprooting peaceful communities, destroying families, and maybe even taking lives. Who knows what the long-term effects of drinking tainted water could be?
The coal-to-liquid facility in question is able to produce 1.08m tonnes of petrochemicals per year, and even plans to expand to 5m tonnes in the near future. But all of this increased activity would take a toll on the surrounding environment. Water use would triple – skyrocketing to 41m tonnes - by 2017, the report states.
What happens when the water’s all used up?
Some companies don’t seem concerned with that question at all. Instead, they’re thinking about quarterly reports. Profits. Bonuses. And with slowing growth in the energy sector, China's coal companies are pursuing new markets.
“More than 100 coal chemical projects are currently waiting for approval,” says Li Yan, Greenpeace’s climate and energy manager. "That’s why we chose to stand out against a big iconic project like Shenhua coal-to-liquid at this time as it's still possible that some major decisions can be shifted because of environmental concerns."
Remember: it’s never too late to make a difference. Start fighting for the environment. Because the environment can’t fight for itself.
[Shenhua Group, Greenpeace East Asia, Li Yan, nrglab, nrglab pte ltd, nrglab asia, China, nrglab Singapore, nrglab Сингапур, Ana Shell nrglab ]