Coalification of Water

This year’s World Water Day marks the launch of the 5th United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR) on the theme of water and energy. Coal remains a top energy producer world-wide. Its connection to water is a parasitic one. It drains our precious water supplies and spits back polluted skies, lakes, streams and rivers, both in its processing and production. The following pictures are a journey through the lives of people (their homes and their lands) who have been directly affected by coal power production. These are people and places which already suffer from water-scarcity but now see their livelihoods and health hung in the balance of an outmoded means of energy production.

Zhang Dadi, a farmer from the Adaohai Number 1 Commune, has a 150-meter deep well that he uses to irrigate his corn field. The year before he planted 20 mu of land, but could only irrigate 15 mu (1 hectare). Now he's planted 15 mu but could only irrigate 8. The groundwater levels drop every year and it doesn't rain. Corn planted over a month ago still hasn't started to sprout. For ten years, the Chinese state-run organisation Shenhua Group, has been exploiting water resources at a shocking scale from the Ordos grasslands to use in its coal-to-liquid project (a process for producing liquid fuel from coal) and illegally dumping toxic industrial waste water. Shenhua's operations have sparked social unrest and caused severe ecological damage including desertification, impacting farmers and herders who are facing reduced water supplies in what was once an abundant farming area.

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