Over the last 30 years, China has undergone an unprecedented industrialisation. In that time, China’s GDP has jumped from $US202.5 billion in $US1980 to $US8.2 trillion in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund. But that growth has come at an increasingly hard-to-ignore environmental cost.
As China’s population has migrated from the countryside to cities in search of factory work, China’s energy consumption has increased dramatically.
The majority of China’s energy is supplied by coal-fired power stations, which produce widespread pollution. Back in January, the air quality in Beijing got so bad that when the United States Embassy rated it 755 on an Air Quality Index that was only supposed to go up to 500. The public outcry over the situation forced the notoriously opaque Chinese government to allow Chinese news to report more honestly on the pollution.
One of the cities most affected by China’s rapid industrialisation and pollution is Wuhai city in Inner Mongolia. Located on the Yellow River, Wuhai is a city that used to be based around grapes, wine-making, and dairy farming. Now, because Inner Mongolia holds 26% of China’s coal reserves, its economy is based around coal mining, power plants, and chemical industries.
Below are some photos of the damage from Susan Shifflett at the Wilson Center, along with more alarming details.
In 2012, Wuhai City had a population of 548,000 and produced 38 million tons of coal.
Before 1998, Wuhai had four factories. Now, it has more than 400.
This area is designated for open-pit mining, which produces large amounts of air and water pollution. Two-thirds of China’s surface water and half of the country’s groundwater are polluted.
A truck packed with barrels of coal heads for processing. Unique to Wuhai, all aspects of the coal industry are housed in the city, including mining, power plants and coal-to-chemical processing. All produce air and water pollution.
These chickens were turned black from coal and pollution. Many other species in the area have been turned black as well.
A recent study concluded that the pollution has taken 5.5 years off the life expectancy of residents in Northern China.
Clean coal technology, which reduces pollution, is in place, but companies do not use it to cut costs.
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