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Chinese pollution (Credit: Brian McGleenon,

China’s most polluted town

SONGTING is a town 120 miles east of Beijing, it is populated by resilient characters who suffer from the consequences of the consuming west and the producing east since the Reform and Opening up of China in 1979.

Qian’an, Hebei province

It is situated in Qian’an, Hebei province.

As a heavily-industrial province, there are 49 steel plants in Hebei, 25% of which are located in Qian’an.

It is a town of 3000 villagers, Songting has been surrounded by seven steel plants and coking factories since 2003, which have caused deadly water and air pollution for the villagers who are too poor to move out of the hell.

Chinese reforms of 1978

In 1978, China started Reform and Opening Up policy.

Up to the 1980s, the local villager lived a peaceful farming life with clean river and greenish mountains.

In 1996, Jiujiang Group Ltd was launched by Zhao Yujiang and Zhao Yuqiao which has, up to now, three open-air coal mines, three underground mines, ten steel plants and one limestone factory.

The Zhao brothers

The Zhao brothers had had a close relationship with the then mayor who later ended up in prison due to economic corruption.

Capital of steel

In March 2003, Qian’an steel plant, as a local branch of Capital Steel Cooperation, was launched; it started producing steel since 2004 and, according to the official paper, made the most of local resources and contributed significant to the title of “City of Steel” for which Qian’an is known for.

Pollution from factories in a town in China (Credit: JungleNews, Junjira saetae)

This brought rapid developments to the local economy.

It generates the highest GDP in 2016 in Hebei Province, but,l causes deadly pollution to the local villagers.

From 2003 to 2015, there were only 100 out of the 1300 families living in the old village; the majority moved to the newly-built residential area 5 miles from the old one.

Four buckets of water are sent to the families who still live in the old village every two day paid by the factory. The water looks good but actually highly poisoned. Even ducks couldn’t drink it. Villagers couldn’t use it to make tofu or even take a shower. One man said, ‘if I washed myself with the water from underground, I felt itchy all over my body. But they sent us four buckets of water every two day so we can only use it for coking and feeding poultry.’

In Nov 2014, nine elderly villagers travelled to Beijing and tried to appeal to the central government and environmental department, but were referred back to the provincial environmental department as the case is too local to process.

Once they got back, some of them got temporary arrested illegally by the local factories. The village party secretary asked the factory to pay for the cost of constructing a new living area but was refused.

China’s economic growth

This town reveals the costs behind China’s economic growth and the rationales behind China Communism Party’s promise of building welfare society through the daily lives of remaining elderly residents in Songting, an existence where humour shines through even when hope has died.

The rust mixes with dust
in air
in water
is this life?


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