Untreated waste water dumped by chemical plants into Tengger Desert, Inner Mongolia-Ningxia-Gansu, China

In 2015, eight companies were ruled to pay 569 million yuan for dumping untreated waste in the Tengger Desert between Inner Mongolia autonomous region and Gansu province, with a non-profit organization as the plaintiff.


The Tengger Desert is located at the junction of Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and Gansu. Since September 2014, it has been exposed to the public that some enterprises in Inner Mongolia Alxa League Tengger Industrial Park and in Ningxia Zhongwei Industrial Park, as well as Ningxia Zhongwei Mingsheng Dyeing Co., Ltd., and Gansu Wuwei Ronghua Industry and Trade Co., Ltd. have illegally discharged untreated sewage into the desert hinterland through the illegally laid underground pipes, causing serious damage to the ecological environment of the Tengger Desert. [1]

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Basic Data
NameUntreated waste water dumped by chemical plants into Tengger Desert, Inner Mongolia-Ningxia-Gansu, China
Province1)Inner Mongolia; 2)Ningxia; 3)Gansu
Site1)Alxa Left Banner; 2) Zhongwei City; 3) Liangzhou District in Wuwei City
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Waste Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Chemical industries
Manufacturing activities
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific CommoditiesSodium sulfide, aminoanisole, o-phenylenediamine, sulfur dyestuff, sodium thiosulfate [4]; Printing and dyeing stuff [4]; Corn starch and glutamic acid [5]
Manufactured Products
Chemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project Details#There is no detailed information on the companies involved. Here we could only refer to name some of the companies and provide some information on the industrial parks.

Tengger Industrial Park, established in 1999, has attracted dozens of eastern chemical companies to invest and build factories, mainly based on sodium sulfide projects. These highly polluting companies produce tens of thousands of tons of sodium sulfide, p-aminoanisole and o-phenylenediamine, as well as sulphur dyes and sodium thiosulfate. [4]

The information updated on July 7, 2015 shows that the enterprises in Tengger Industrial Park carry out production processes with nitrate, naphthalene, benzene, coal chemical and metallurgical raw materials as the main raw materials. The minerals used in large-scale mining mainly include salt, nitrate, iron, clay, and gypsum. In 2013, the total industrial output value was 670 million yuan, the operating income was 640 million yuan, and the tax was 0.14 billion yuan.[1]

Zhongwei Industrial Park consists of 5 industry sections including the papermaking and packaging printing industry, the coal chemical industry, the salt chemical industry, the natural gas chemical industry and the fine chemical industry of by-products extension development, the iron and steel smelting industry, the metal materials, the non-metal materials and the new material industry that mainly involves polymer materials. It also has four townships characteristic Zone, namely, Zhenluojinxin Industrial Zone, Xuanhe Metallurgical Chemical Zone, Changle Ceramic Industrial Zone and Ningxia Red Science and Technology Zone.[2] In 2012, the total industrial output value was 11.4 billion yuan. It is estimated that by 2020, the accumulated investment of enterprises will reach 60 billion yuan, and the output value will reach 100 billion yuan.[7]
Project Area (in hectares)12,017.73
Level of Investment (in USD)unknown
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Populationunknown
Start Date2010
Company Names or State EnterprisesGansu Ronghua Industry Group Company Limited (Ronghua company) from China - main polluting company
Ningxia Huayu Chemical Co., Ltd. from China - main polluting company
Zhongwei Meiliyuan Water Co., Ltd. from China - main polluting company
Zhongwei City Xinsanyuan Chemical Co., Ltd. from China - main polluting company
Ningxia Ruitai Technology Co., Ltd. from China - main polluting company
Ningxia Desert Medicine Co., Ltd. from China - main polluting company
Ningxia Zhongwei Dalong Chemical Technology Co., Ltd. from China - main polluting company
Ningxia Mingsheng Dyeing Co., Ltd. from China - main polluting company
Ningxia Lanfeng Fine Chemical Co., Ltd. (Lanfeng Biochemical) from China - main polluting company
Relevant government actors-Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Environmental Protection Department Alxa League, Alxa Left Banner, Tengger Economic Development Zone [10];

-relevant departments of Zhongwei Municipal Government [9]; -Zhongwei City Intermediate People's Court of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the Higher People's Court of Ningxia Autonomous Region, Supreme People's Court; Gansu Wuwei Liangzhou District Government [11];

-Ministry of Environmental Protection, the State Council, President Xi Jinping [12]
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters-China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation [13]. website:http://www.cbcgdf.org/

-All-China Environment Federation [14] website:http://www.acef.com.cn/index.html
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Waste overflow
OtherIrreversible impacts: Liu Shurun, a well-known botanist and grasslands ecologist, is a professor of ecology at Inner Mongolia Normal University. He warns that “as soon as groundwater becomes polluted, we don’t just lose the habitats that have supported herders for generations – worse, we put the unique ecosystem of the Tengger, China’s fourthlargest desert, at grave risk.” And, he adds, once groundwater is polluted it’s next to impossible to clean up. [15]

Changing the shape of the desert: A reporter noticed that the shape of the desert near the chemical zone has changed significantly. In some low-lying areas, the floating sand immediately shows purple or dark brown sand. “The solid waste and water residue from chemical companies, which contains high concentrations of acidic liquids, is likely to have penetrated into the ground. Environmental organizations have previously tested groundwater and found that phenols exceeded 400 times, but they have not been recognized and valued by the local government.” [16]
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Occupational disease and accidents
OtherWorkers installing crash barriers on the road were all wearing masks – they said there are a number of sites like that nearby, and if you don't protect your face you’ll soon end up suffering headaches and a sore throat. [15]
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
The compensation of 596 million yuan became the largest amount of compensation of environmental public interest litigation in China so far [9].
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Under the exposure of many media, the Tengger Desert pollution incident was highly concerned by the central government, so it could be resolved in time. Relevant enterprises and leaders were punished as they should. The compensation of 596 million yuan became the largest amount of compensation of environmental public interest litigation in China so far [9], which alarms the pollution behaviour of some enterprises. However, the better resolution of the incident relies mainly on the high concern of the Party Central Committee and the pressure of the media. It is not strictly in accordance with the judicial procedures to control pollution. Therefore, it’s success for the event itself, but the processing of the event is a failure.
Sources and Materials

[7] Chinadialogue. Death of the desert. (accessed on 16-Sept-2018)
[click to view]

[1] 《腾格里沙漠污染事件后续:宁夏两名环保官员被判有罪》;《Follow-up of the Tengger Desert pollution incident: two environmental officials in Ningxia were found guilty》; (accessed on 28-Sept-2018)
[click to view]

[2] 《内蒙工业园企业向腾格里沙漠大肆排污 事件惊动中央》;《Inner Mongolia Industrial Park Enterprise stunned the central discharge of the Tengger Desert》;(accessed on 29-Sept-2018)
[click to view]

[3] 《腾格里沙漠维基百科》;《Tengger Desert Wikipedia》; (accessed on 23-Sept-2018)
[click to view]

[4] 《腾格里沙漠污染事件屡遭曝光 工业园区成保护伞》;《The pollution incident in the Tengger Desert has been repeatedly exposed; Industrial park became a protective umbrella》; (accessed on 23-Sept-2018)
[click to view]

[5] 《解密!震惊全国的腾格里沙漠污染事件始末!》;《Decrypt! Shocking the nationwide Tengger Desert pollution incident!》;(accessed on 20-Sept-2018)
[click to view]

[6] 《腾格里沙漠守护者:揭露排污黑幕的环境斗士》;《Guardian of the Tengger Desert: an environmental warrior who exposed the blackout》 (accessed on 24-Sept-2018)
[click to view]

[8] 《沙漠之殇》;《Death of the desert》; (accessed on 23-Sept-2018)
[click to view]

[9] 《内蒙古多名领导因腾格里沙漠环境问题被追责》;《Many leaders in Inner Mongolia are being held accountable for environmental problems in the Tengger Desert》 (accessed on 6-Oct-2018)
[click to view]

[10] 《腾格里沙漠污染事件24名责任人受党纪政纪处分》;《24 responsible persons in the Tengger Desert pollution incident were disciplined by the party discipline》;(accessed on 23-Sept-2018)
[click to view]

[11] 《向腾格里沙漠排污企业被罚500万》;《Company was fined 5 million yuan for sewage disposal in the desert.》; (accessed on 16-Sept-2018)
[click to view]

[12] 《武威荣华工贸有限公司》;《Wuwei Ronghua Industry and Trade Co., Ltd.》; (accessed on 5-Oct-2018)
[click to view]

[13] 《腾格里沙漠被大肆排污背后:荣华公司成为事件黑手》;《Behind the Tengger Desert, the Ronghua Company became the black hand of the event.》 (accessed on 16-Sept-2018)
[click to view]

[14] 《Tengger case shows even big firms can't escape penalty for polluting》;(accessed on 19-Nov-2018)
[click to view]

[15] 《号外|腾格里沙漠污染案追踪:600万罚金去向未定》;《Extra | Tengger Desert pollution case tracking: 6 million yuan fines to go undecided》; (accessed on 17-Oct-2018)
[click to view]

[16]《中卫市美利源水务有限公司》;《Zhongwei Meiliyuan Water Co., Ltd.》(accessed on 23-Oct-2018)
[click to view]

[17]《宁夏蓝丰精细化工有限公司》;《Ningxia Lanfeng Fine Chemical Co., Ltd.》(accessed on 23-Oct-2018)
[click to view]

[18]《宁夏华御化工有限公司-公司简介》;《Ningxia Huayu Chemical Co., Ltd.-Company Profile》(accessed on 23-Nov-2018)
[click to view]

[19]《宁夏大漠药业有限公司》;《Ningxia Desert Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.》 (accessed on 23-Oct-2018)
[click to view]

[20]《宁夏中卫市大龙化工科技有限公司 (中卫市沙坡头区美利工业园区)》;《Ningxia Zhongwei Dalong Chemical Technology Co., Ltd. (Mili Industrial Park, Shapotou District, Zhongwei City)》 (accessed on 23-Oct-2018)
[click to view]

[22]《宁夏明盛染化有限公司》;《Ningxia Mingsheng Dyeing Co., Ltd.》 (accessed on 25-Oct-2018)
[click to view]

[21]《宁夏瑞泰科技股份有限公司》;《Ningxia Ruitai Technology Co., Ltd.》(accessed on 25-Oct-2018)
[click to view]

[23]《中卫市鑫三元化工有限公司》;《Zhongwei Xinsanyuan Chemical Co., Ltd.》 (accessed on 25-Oct-2018)
[click to view]

[24]《中化国际扬农集团宁夏瑞泰科技股份有限公司》;《Sinochem International Yangnong Group Ningxia Ruitai Technology Co., Ltd.》 (accessed on 3-Dec-2018)
[click to view]

Media Links

腾格里沙漠腹地现巨型排污池 气味刺鼻,Weibo Official Channel

Published on 8 Sep 2014
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Other Documents

waste discharge to Tengger desert
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pipelines to discharge waste to the desert
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waste pool in the Tengger desert
[click to view]

polluted desert area
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEnvJustice, ICTA-UAB/2018 Summer
Last update04/12/2018