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.
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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs