Giant Dirty Marsh Emerging in Desert: Pollution Diffuses Westward
Located on the border area of Inner Mongolia and Ningxia
Automous Region, Tengger Desert is the fourth largest desert
of China, which originally had a wealth of underground water
resources and a variety of national key protected plants.
It is a major residential area of local herdsmen.
But now, people whose ancestral generations have been
raised by this desert have had to flee, and the desert is being
replaced by a piece of dense forest of chemical factories
with several giant cesspools exuding a pungent stench
and suffocating odor.
"Tengger" means "sky" in Mongolian and describes
the desert "as vast and boundless as the sky."
But it is hard to imagine such a huge "artificial marsh"
was once the beautiful Tengger Desert.
In recent years, the inner area of Tengger Desert has been
developed with Inner Mongolia Tengger Industrial Park
and Ningxia Zhongwei Industrial Park, both of which
attracted a large number of chemical companies.
However, the local government states that these, "heroic
companies have created an industrial miracle of the desert."
A daily steady stream of unprocessed chemical wastewater
containing acids is released directly into the desert.
While for the sake of industrial production these companies
have frantically extracted the underground water in which
the nearby herdsman live.
Such a status has resulted in the ecological damage
and water shortage double crisis of Tengger Desert.
Many patches of "Black Swamps" in the Tengger Desert
are discharged sewage pools, which were euphemistically
labelled, "sewage treatment facilities."
According to a Beijing News reporter who inquired with
the local herders, the chemical companies discharged
untreated wastewater into the sewage pools.
Then through natural evaporation, the thick sediment
was eradicated by forklifts and directly buried in the desert.
These sewage pools exude a pungent stench
and suffocating odor all day.
Some companies don't even want to build so-called
"sewage treatment pools," and directly discharge
the chemical wastewater into the sand
via rubber tubes.
Such illegal injections into the desert cause
very serious pollution and other hazards.
Water expert Zhang Junfeng is the sponsor
of the "water pleasing tour."
He said, “The desert belongs to such a highly permeable
geological environment, so anything buried in it
will be kept in the system.
Even if it evaporates into the air, it still returns to the natural
circulation system through ambient movement.
This not only causes serious water pollution,
but also an air pollution.
As along with rain or other moisture movements,
the polluted substances still return to the ground.
This not only has a great impact on the local environment,
but also the entire ecosystem."
In addition, experts also pointed out that because
the chemical wastewater discharged from Tengger Industrial
Park infiltrate into the underground, this has contaminated
the underground drinking water of Zhongwei City in Ningxia,
which borders the Industrial Park.
Legal Daily reported last year that a qualified testing
organization in Beijing found that in the region about 2 km
from the Tengger Industrial Park, herders' drinking water
contained carcinogen phenol 410 times more
than the national standard.
In addition, in the drinking water samples,
the total bacterial count, total coliforms
and sulfides were also detected
to be beyond the standard values.
More seriously, the Yellow River water flowing through
the southeast edge of Tengger Desert has also been
threatened by the pollution.
Zhang Junfeng: "if it (chemical sewage) penetrates into
the underground water bodies, underground water bodies
will be certainly mixed into other water bodies,
in some certain outlets where it flows into other rivers.
Once the rivers flow together, pollutants will be diffused
to various places.
Furthermore, not long to its downstream, there are gates
which retain drinking water for Lanzhou City and other cities.
So this definitely has a long-term impact."
Many Internet users worry that the contaminated chemical
dust will be blown by wild winds to surrounding areas.
This poses a threat to a larger area.
Environmental pollution expert Mr. Wang Jun is a Director
of the International Department of Beijing Unirule
He said: "If the sand is toxic, then it is very bad.
It would undoubtedly hurt more people.
Some chemical residues are able to get into our eyes,
our nose, our lungs and respiratory system.
Then those toxins will be released, and that impacts will......
despite being very slow and very unique, the influence
is still there.”
In fact, in early 2010, some media exposed the pollution
situation of the Tengger Desert.
During the next four years, a number of media followed
the reports of this topic.
But the authorities often reply with "possible oversight,"
and then there was no further progress.
U.S.-based Chinese environmental writer Ho Zhe:
"Because this factory project brings direct benefits
to the local fiscal revenue and the taxed.
If these projects cease operation, then the revenue
and the taxes will be all reduced.
Of course the governments will have no money,
so the governments want to protect these companies
due to the common interests."
Wang Jun: "Although they seemingly said, 'we must
resolutely protect the environment,' internally their minds
fundamentally not like this swear.
So it is possible for the governments to tip off companies
and to do some cover ups.
This is very common in China, and this is not only
The EPA and the polluting enterprises
are often the same family."
Tengger Desert giant sewage pools were recently exposed
again, and this has become a strong societal concern.
The Internet has been full of vitriol towards those
unscrupulous and immoral companies.
Internet users denounce the collaboration of governments
with businesspersons, the dissatisfaction
with the governmental non-action,
and even more concerned for future generations.
Interview & Edit/Zhan Tianyu Post-Production/LiYong