In Monglian, the name Qagan Nur Lake means ‘white lake’ because it is a natural salt lake which make it a perfect habitat for spirulina and wild birds. It was also known for having no industrial pollution within its 200km surrounding areas. The people living on the prairie take water from the natural mineral water from underground river. However, that might only exist in postcards from now on. The famous white lake is now bleeding under Inner Mongolia’s blue sky.
Starting from this July, local herdsmen have been seeing strange phenomenon – many dead water birds emerge around the lake area. Walk southwest of the lake, one can find bodies of birds lying around on the grass, half-buried in the sands or floating in the shallow.
And there are lots of other birds struggling for their lives in the muds.
According to local government, more than 500 birds died as of July 31. And the number is growing everyday. At first, the government hired people to bury the dead birds. But still more and more dead birds were found everyday.
One day, local herdsman Bater saw that his cattle fell down by the polluted lake just like the dying birds, and they couldn’t get up. Later his brother’s 4 cattle were also showing symptoms of food poisoning by the lake, only 1 of which was cured by vet and the other 3 died.
Just 3km away from the lake sits a designated eco-industrial area, whose existence drains the lives from the surrounding grassland, beds of reeds and flocks of birds in just a few years. According to herdsmen, the factories used to blatantly dispose of their waste water into the ditch next to the factories through a half meter diameter pipe, the ditch water flows pass herdsmen’s grassland into the Qagan Nur Lake.
Later thanks to herdsmen’s complaints, the waste disposal stopped but the factories were still running and the stinky smells still filled the air. Herdsmen knew there was something hidden. They searched along the lakeside and found 2 pipes stretching towards underground water.
During the day, the 2 pipes lied still under the watch of factory guards. It was only at night that the pipes vomited out factory wastes. Through the herdsman’s flashlight one can see white liquid springing out from under and smell irritating chemical odor.
Illegal waste disposal is one thing, however, the damage goes much deeper. According to local herdsmen, the factories have already dug over 30 wells whose average depth is over 200m underground. The deeper the well goes, the more difficult it is to get clean drinking water. Because of that, today 70% of the herdsmen’s annual income has to be put into digging even deeper wells to vie for clean water.
To make things worse, factories suck out a huge amount of underground water resulting in significant drop in water level. Thus the bushes and grasslands are seeing less and less harvest every year. Herdsmen are stuck in a situation where they can’t access to water from highland, and the water in low areas are too polluted to be of any use at all.
Meng Gen is a university student from the town. To help protect his hometown environment, he sets up WeChat group to urge others to collect evidences of industrial pollution. Meng Gen said, the herdsmen had very simple demand, they just wanted to understand why the birds and herds were dying suddenly, and what potential harms the polluted water would pose to residents. They have been living on the grasslands generation after generation, but right now, they don’t know if their lives can continue here.
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