News / Asia

Greenpeace Accuses Chinese Coal Company of Draining Water Resources

A worker stacks coal briquettes at a coal distribution business in Huaibei, central China's Anhui province, January 30, 2013.
A worker stacks coal briquettes at a coal distribution business in Huaibei, central China's Anhui province, January 30, 2013.
William Ide
International environmental group Greenpeace is accusing China’s largest state-run coal company of massively exploiting water resources in the country's arid Inner Mongolia region.  In a newly released investigative report, the group says wells have dried up, lakes have shrunk and desert dunes are expanding near the company's plant. 

According to Greenpeace, since state-owned Shenhua Group began extracting water for its plant to process coal into liquid fuels, groundwater levels have dropped by nearly 100 meters.

One lake where the plant extracts its water has also shrunk by two-thirds since operations began in 2006.  The group says the plant is not only drying up water resources, but illegally dumping toxic industrial wastewater as well.
Local farmers and herders are finding it difficult to maintain their livelihoods, sparking social unrest.  But the company is in the midst of plans to massively expand the project.

Li Yan, the head of the environmental group’s climate and energy campaign in China, said Shenhua needs to put an end to the destruction.

“We also want to warn the current ambitious development plans in the local and central governments for more coal chemical projects to take this as an example and to please give water resource limits priority," Li said.

China relies heavily on coal to power its massive economy, the world’s second largest, but its leaders are also facing growing demands to address environmental concerns.

Earlier this month, China cancelled a six-billion-dollar uranium-processing plant following protests against the facility.  Other petrochemical projects have recently been halted as well.

The release of the report is the first time that Greenpeace has taken on a single state-owned enterprise with such scrutiny and focus.

Greenpeace is not publishing the findings to make the company look bad, said Li,  but to make sure that unchecked expansion of the coal industry does not come at the cost of water and ecological security.

“This is definitely not risk free and we have tried our best to make sure that our evidence and findings are very solid. And we have also tried to bring evidence and show what is happening to different ministries and policy makers,” said Li.

Greenpeace has delivered copies of the report to China’s Environmental Ministry, Water Resources Ministry and a government body that oversees state-owned enterprises, said Li. The group has not yet received a response.

Another copy was sent to the company Tuesday, just before the group held a news conference in Beijing to announce its findings. Shenhua has yet to comment on the report.  Its liquid to coal plant in Inner Mongolia is one of three such pilot projects in China.

The Greenpeace investigation was based on 11 field trips to the project between March and July of this year.  Although the company says the plant is a low water-consumption project that has zero discharge, Greenpeace said, its findings prove those claims are false.

The group said it found high-levels of toxic chemicals in discharge wastewater and other cancer causing compounds in sediment samples.

The process of converting coal to liquid fuels widens the possible uses of China’s plentiful energy source beyond just producing electricity.    

As China’s reliance on coal power generation slows, coal companies are looking for other alternatives. Local governments in the northwest are eager to allow such industries to operate because they contribute badly needed tax revenues, said Li.

“Right now there are only less than a handful of coal liquefaction projects because it is really controversial for its water intensity, for its energy intensity.  This is why these projects are very important, not only for Shenhua, but also for the whole industry.  They are really looking at these projects to be the flagship for the modern coal chemical industry,” said Li.

But Li added that if pilot projects like Shenhua's are having problems it’s a very worrying sign for their expansion.  Currently, more than 100 coal chemical projects are waiting for Chinese government approval to move forward.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid