Pollution in Linfen

13 Feb

In recent decades the detrimental effects of air and water pollution have been felt the world over. But nowhere in the world has been affected by pollution as much as China. China is now the second largest economy in the world and the worlds biggest polluter. This accolade was gained through a complete disregard for environmental quality and a drive for economic growth. Substantial economic growth has been achieved since 1978 which is a quite a feat.

One city that has felt the full effects of Chinese industrial pollution is Linfen in South-Western Shanxi province, home to 4 million people. A thick smog reminiscent of Victorian London permanently hangs over the city.

A large proportion of the people living here are suffering from various ailments such as high blood pressure, lung problems, heart disease, emphysema and pesticide poisoning. These illnesses are directly linked to air and water pollution experienced in Linfen. A day spent in Linfen breathing in the toxic chemicals is the equivalent to smoking 3 packs of cigarettes. This goes to show how bad the air quality is and also shows why there are so many illnesses in Linfen linked to air pollution. Reporter David Fineberg for VICE Media stated that after a week in Linfen his eyes stung and the inside of his nose had turned black with the dust emitted from the factories (VICE, 2014). These environmental conditions cause serious problems for the elderly and pregnant women who are most vulnerable to the chemicals and toxins in the air and water. Birth defects are commonly linked to pesticide poisoning in mothers which is a common issue here.

Shanxi province is the centre of Chinas coal industry, there are national mines there which supply Eastern China with coal for its fossil fuel dependant economy. Coal trucks clog the streets and motorways in Shanxi province causing congestion and further air pollution. In 2006 the World Bank dubbed Linfen as the dirtiest place in the world which goes to show the magnitude of the problem the city faces. This isn’t the only case of dirty cities in China, 70% of Chinas cities can’t meet air quality standards. Another point is that out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 16 of them are in China (Impact Lab, 2014)

Believe it or not, agriculture exists in Linfen. It is a source of income for many poor families in the area who do not work in the factories or mines. The crops harvested contain harmful chemicals and toxins from the air and the water which calls into question the risks of eating local produce. Dust from vehicles and the factories coats the crops in a black soot. The Fen river is heavily polluted with the waste products of the factories dotted along the river. Other rivers in China such as the Yangtze River flows through Nanjing and Chongqing act as waste dumps for factories. The water quality in the Yangtze and Yellow River is so bad that it’s unsafe for drinking. This brings the worrying prospect of water insecurity into light in China. When all the rivers are polluted, undrinkable and dams drained where is China going to get its water?

This simply goes to show the drive for economic superiority in China at the expense of the livelihoods of the environment and the people of China. Cities


Impact Lab (2014) “The World’s Top 20 Most Polluted Cities” at www.impactlab.net/2006/06/12/the-worlds-top-20-most-polluted-cities/ accessed 13/02/14

VICE (2014) “Toxic: Linfen, China” at www.vice.com/toxic/toxic-linfen-china accessed 11/02/14Image


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