Shenhua admits to illegally discharging water in response to Greenpeace water grab investigation

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Press release - 2013-08-23
Beijing - China's largest coal conglomerate - the Shenhua Group - has admitted to illegally discharging wastewater in direct response to Greenpeace East Asia’s 'Thirsty Coal 2' report. Released in July, the environmental NGO’s investigation exposed Shenhua’s over-extraction of groundwater and illegal discharging of wastewater as part of the Chinese SOE’s Coal-to-Liquid (CtL) project in Ordos, Inner Mongolia.

Greenpeace East Asia appreciates the company’s response, which has come in the form of two official statements. (1) However, Greenpeace East Asia Climate and Energy campaigner Deng Ping said, “Shenhua has admitted to illegally discharging wastewater, but it has not clarified the ecological degradation and livelihood crisis caused by its Coal-to-Liquid project. Water resources are still being over-exploited in Haolebaoji, and the project’s expansion is ongoing. This is intensifying the ecological devastation there, as well as adding to social disharmony."

"Time is ticking for Shenhua to stop its water grabbing antics and so Greenpeace is calling for a more practical and sincere solution from Shenhua.”

Following the Greenpeace East Asia report that was released on July 23rd 2013, the Shenhua Group invited the environmental NGO to talks six days later. On August 8th 2013, Shenhua submitted a statement to Greenpeace called The Explanation of Water Resource Exploitation and its Ecological Impact. Greenpeace East Asia then received another statement from the Shenhua Group, called The Explanation of Wastewater Discharge on August 16th 2013. The coal company appears to be willing to communicate with Greenpeace East Asia, however, the solutions and explanations Shenhua have so far offered fall short.

To address this, Greenpeace consulted with environment and water resource experts on Shenhua’s responses. Greenpeace East Asia has found it is in agreement with Shenhua’s analysis that its CtL project has degraded ground vegetation by exploiting underground water. (2) However, Shenhua’s response does not offer enough clarification regarding the impact on the groundwater level in Haolebaoji. (3)

Furthermore, Shenhua has offered no direct explanation on the impact their project has had on the local community, regarding its agriculture, economy or quality of life. Shenhua has also failed to describe what compensation local farmers and herders should receive or if there should be a resettlement plan in light of the damage caused by the illegal wastewater disharge.

In Shenhua’s The Explanation of Wastewater Discharge, the coal company again admitted to illegally discharging wastewater. According to Shenhua, they will be “following the Environmental Impact Assessment Law of China and commission a consultancy firm to perform an environmental impact assessment of the water resource area”. And depending on its findings, Shenhua will “implement a feasible water option for phase one of the Coal-to-Liquid project”. Shenhua says it will “submit their results to the relevant administrative organization to review” by the end of 2013.

Greenpeace East Asia is calling on the Shenhua Group to address all of the issues highlighted in the Thirty Coal 2 report and to act accordingly.


(1) Both statements from the Shenhua Group regarding the Thirsty Coal 2 Report are available from Greenpeace East Asia.

(2) On page 11 of the Shenhua Group’s The Explanation on Water Resource Exploitation and its Ecological Impact, the company says “the exploitation has caused groundwater decline, which has affected the distribution and succession of vegetation in the area.”

(3) According to the Shenhua Group’s The Explanation on Water Resource Exploitation and its Ecological Impact, the project only uses deep groundwater (i.e. confined water). Shenhua claims that “No phreatic water has been exploited by the project” and Shenhua “has not monitored the phreatic water level since 2009”. However, existing research shows that the confined water in Haolebaoji is closely related to the phreatic water there, and phreatic water is closely related to the area’s vegetation and lakes, such as Subeinaoer Lake.

The Thirsty Coal 2 Report is available hereThe full 'Thirsty Coal' feature can be read here.


Yu Chong, Greenpeace East Asia Media Officer

Desk: +86 10-6554 6931 Ext.110
Mobile: +86 138 107 84274
QQ: 360781005

Greenpeace International Press Desk

Desk: +31 20 718 24 70
Twitter: @greenpeacepress

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