Zhundong is like a massive battery providing energy to different cities.”
the Gobi Desert, destroying plants and posing a threat to wildlife.
“We have disposed of unprocessed waste from our power stations in the Gobi Desert near our facilities. We didn’t realize that this vast, dry land with meager vegetation needed to be protected,” said Jin Peichun, deputy manager of Xinjiang Eastern Hope Nonferrous Metals Co, which owns an electrolytic aluminum plant in Zhundong and generates electricity via its own thermal power stations. Xinjiang Eastern Hope wasn’t the only offender, though; three other companies have also been found to have dumped waste in the desert.
Now the area is being cleaned up. A small lake of salty wastewater discharged from the processing plants and the solid waste that was piled up like a small hill have disappeared since the company complied with an order from the Environmental Protection Authority to ship the detritus to a waste processing plant in the economic zone.
“Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that the plants that were buried under the waste will grow back. The Gobi Desert is very fragile and although it has areas of natural vegetation, it could easily become a total desert. Luckily, wastewater won’t enter the nature reserve’s water system because there are no subterranean water courses or reservoirs here,” said Zheng Min, director of the environmental protection bureau of the Changji Hui autonomous prefecture, where Zhundong is located.
“The economic zone is still relatively young, so we have to punish those companies properly to ensure that others don’t follow their bad examples,” she said. “The zone is so big that sometimes it’s extremely difficult for us to monitor every corner.”
Although the thermal power plants in the zone comply with the strictest standards for the emission of airborne pollutants, Zhang is concerned that the eastern regions will enjoy “clean” electricity at the expense of the Xinjiang environment.
“China needs to work out a compensation mechanism between energy generators and recipients, to ensure that both sides get an equal share of the benefits,” she said. Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org