After the Cultural Revolution, in the space of just three decades, China became the second largest economy in the world, and such unprecedented growth caused a considerable increase in both energy consumed and pollution.
Some industrial plants discharge untreated industrial wastewater into rivers, others emit toxic gases into the atmosphere, contaminating the air and water, farmland and pastureland. Over the past ten years, certain companies have moved from the eastern coastal areas to central or western regions, extending the pollution even further, and it has reached critical levels.
The Ministry for the Environment has shut down many of the smaller companies causing pollution, but some have continued illegal practices such as discharging waste at night, burying drainage pipes beneath riverbeds, or storing toxic wastewater in large evaporation ponds which in turn contaminate the groundwater.
Minerals such as coal and iron are no longer mined underground, but come from open-pit mines that destroy the environment. Grassland has turned to desert; animal farmers have nowhere to graze their stock, while crop farmers have lost their arable land and have had to move, sometimes to another country. In a smog of toxic coal dust, schools are closed, flights are delayed and canceled, highways shut, and more and more people suffering from respiratory disease have been admitted to hospital. Food and drinking water are contaminated, and communities with a high prevalence of disease are now known as “cancer villages.” Here environmental pollution is not a theory. In China it is a very real danger and threat to the people.
Exhibition curated by: Jean Loh
Lu Guang is distributed by Contact Press Images