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. 
In 1999, Inner Mongolia established the Tengger Industrial Park in Eglis Town, Tengger (in October 2013, the original Inner Mongolia Alashan Putaodun Industrial Park and the Tengger Industrial Park merged to form the Alashan Tengger Economic and Technological Development Park, but the local People are still used to using the old name). Four years later, Zhongwei Industrial Park (formerly known as Zhongwei Meili Paper Industry Park) was established 20 kilometres in the southeast of the town. 
As early as 2010, the media exposed Ningxia Zhongye Meili Paper Co., Ltd., which discharged a large amount of wastewater from papermaking into the Tengger Desert, but it was not properly addressed after the exposure.
In the following four years, it has been reported by many media accounts that there were serious environmental problems in the Tengger Economic and Technological Development Park. All-China Environment Federation (ACEF) has conducted a survey of some industrial parks in nine provinces including Inner Mongolia, and found that industrial parks in some areas, on the one hand, were approved by the government under the umbrella of the 'circular economy'. On the other hand, they indulged many highly-polluting enterprises and small workshops. Even some polluting enterprises that have been ordered to shut down are still discharging untreated wastes in this area to evade supervision and regulation. The industrial park has become a "protective umbrella" for illegal operations. 
In 2012, after CCTV exposed the illegal activities in the Tengger Economic and Technological Development Park, 15 companies stopped their production, while 6 companies with pollution pre-treatment equipment could continue to produce. 
Media exposure didn’t help much with the improvement of the environment in the Tengger Desert. Until September 6, 2014, “The Beijing News” reporter Chen Jie published a report entitled "Death of the Desert", which revealed the environmental pollution caused by the industrial wastewater discharged into the desert by the Tengger Industrial Park in Alxa League, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region  and Zhongwei Industrial Park, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The industrial park had motorbike patrols operating to make sure locals or any unknown outsiders stayed away. According to this report, local companies extracted groundwater to use for manufacturing, then dumped untreated waste water into the desert area. After entering into the desert, the reporter found that the rectangular pits, each with the size of several football fields, lay side by side in the desert and were walled with concrete and surrounded by green fencing as tall as a man. Ink-black water was being pumped into two pits, while two others were filled with black, yellow and dark red muds thinned with sand and lime. A bulldozer sat beside the pits, and white smoke hung in the air above. 
Local herders said that these sewage pools were actually evaporation ponds. After the untreated wastewater was discharged, it was naturally evaporated, and then the precipitated sticky deposits were scooped out by a forklift and buried directly in the desert. The reporter also saw that each sewage pool was connected to a white "glass fiber reinforced sand" pipeline, leading to the desert, and pointing to the industrial park. The reporter walked from the sewage pool to the chemical park. From time to time, the sewage pipes could be seen and were exposed to the outside. In some areas, it could be seen that some black rubber pipes were put directly into the sand. The fine sand around these pipes was black. When someone kicked off the surface, he could see the black mud-like condensation underneath, giving off a foul smell. 
There were about forty 180-metre-deep wells in the desert around Elisi, all supplying water to the chemical plants. The reporter saw one well, numbered 31, marked as being the ’water supply for Qinghua Refined Chemicals Park'. The source pointed out the wire poles extending to the desert hinterland - each one leading to a similar well (as they have to use electricity). Every year the number and the depth of the wells increases.  This report prompted a top-level investigation and sacking of provincial officials.
In September 2014, the relevant departments of the Zhongwei Municipal Government of Ningxia ordered the enterprises to promptly start treatment and prevention process for the pollution and to study a solution to control pollution under the guidance of experts. At the same time, investigation and accountability procedures were set up.
On September 26, 2014, the head of the Alxa Left Banner in Inner Mongolia was administratively warned. The deputy director of the Alax League Environmental Protection Bureau was recorded a demerit for their improper handling of the environmental issue in the Tengger Industrial Park. The director of the Alax League Environmental Protection Bureau was suspended for inspection and the deputy director in charge was administratively warned. The head of the environmental monitoring team was suspended for inspection. 
Later, on September 30, 2014, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Government held an (expansion) meeting of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party to arrange the deployment of ecological protection in the whole district. On the following day, the Department of Environmental Protection in Inner Mongolia convened an emergency party group meeting to study and deploy the next key tasks.
On December 14, 2014, some journalists went to the original sites and found that the sewage and sediment in the drying pool had been cleaned. There were no pollutants at the bottom. The surrounding sewage pipes were removed. After the sewage and sediment were solidified, they were transferred to pool No. 4 to be sealed, and the pool No. 4 was also changed to a solidified landfill. Its surface has been paved with grass and there was no disgusting smell at the scene. According to the pictures taken by the reporter on August 29, 2014, there was black odorous sludge in the No. 1 drying pool, and a large amount of sludge accumulated in the No. 2 pool.
By December 17, the sediment of the No. 1 drying pool had been cleaned and the bottom was a dry, non-polluted mud layer. The sludge at the bottom of No. 2 was removed and the enclosure was also removed. With a total investment of 46 million yuan, the solidified material disposal site was changed to No. 4 drying pool, and the sewage and sediment of No. 1, 2 and No. 3 were solidified and transported to the No. 4 drying pool for storage. Designed according to environmental protection requirements, the project has a progressive transfer of solidified material of 98,600 m2, and 53,000 m2 of grass after storage. The project was reviewed on November 28th by the expert group of Inner Mongolia Environmental Protection Department who approved it. .
In December 2014, President Xi Jinping made important instructions and the State Council specially set up an inspection team to urge the Tengger Industrial Park to carry out large-scale rectification. The State Council has also carried out environmental rectification work nationwide. After the exposure of the Tengger Desert pollution incident, Inner Mongolia initiated an accountability process. A total of 24 people of the Autonomous Region Environmental Protection Agency, Alxa League, Alxa Left Banner, the Tengger Economic and Technological Development Park were successively held accountable and punished with disciplinary action from the CPC branch and the higher level government. 
On April 30, 2015, the first case was pronounced after the Tengger Desert pollution incident. The defendant Ningxia Mingsheng Dyeing Company was convicted of environmental pollution and was fined CNY 5 million (USD 724,638, USD 1=CNY 6.9). The defendant Lian was convicted of environmental pollution crime. He was sentenced to one year and six months in prison, suspended for two years, and fined CNY 50,000 (USD 7,246).  Since the Tengger Desert pollution problem occurred, Ningxia Zhongwei City has filed 8 investigations, 5 people are on bail pending trial, 1 is in administrative detention, and 15 public officials were ordered to take responsibilities because of lacking dereliction of duty. Among them, 9 are given disciplinary action and 6 are made checks and notified by criticism.
However, at the beginning of 2015, some journalists once again visited the two places near the Zhongwei Industrial Park. They still found a wastewater pool with strong smell and reddish-brown viscous liquid, and some also equipped with an aerator to drive the air into the water. This provoked that people with a lack of knowledge considered it to be a fish pond. There was an excavator nearby to mix the waste water with the sludge. The whole area was surrounded by a wall. It was necessary to take a panoramic view from the helicopter. When someone approached the area, the factory would send guards to watch them. 
In March 2015, after investigation, Wuwei Ronghua Industry and Trade Co., Ltd. illegally discharged more than 80,000 tons of sewage into the hinterland of the Tengger Desert, with a pollution area of 266 mu  and there were 23 sewage pits of different sizes. The pollutants have mainly come from wastewater discharged by Ronghua Company through the pumping stations 2, 3 and 4. According to the experts of the Environmental Investigation Department, the Ronghua Company put into trial production activities without approval, and privately set up a dark pipe to discharge wastewater to the desert. Zhang Yande, the chairman of Ronghua Company, has been investigated by the Wuzhou City Liangzhou District Public Security Bureau and two directly responsible persons have been detained, after the illegal sewage disposal incident happened. The Liangzhou District Environmental Protection Bureau imposed a fine of CNY 3 million (USD 434,783) on Ronghua Company according to law, and recovered 180,621 yuan (about 26,177 USD) of sewage charges since commissioning and production. The 3 persons mainly in charge, responsibly in charge and directly in charge of the environmental protection department of Wuwei City and Liangzhou District respectively, have been suspended from the examination and would be subjected to censorship, according to the investigation results of the discipline inspection and supervision department and the procuratorate. 
In 2015, when the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, (hereinafter referred to as CBCGDF) visited the polluted areas of the Tengger Desert again, they found that the restoration work was not carried out well. On August 13, the CBCGDF and Wang Haijun, a lawyer of Deheheng Law Firm, filed an indictment with Zhongwei Intermediate People's Court in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (hereinafter referred to as Zhongwei Intermediate People's Court), and lodged a environmental public interest litigation against eight enterprises polluting the Tengger Desert. The environmental public interest litigation required the court to sentence and order the defendant to bear civil liability such as stopping the infringement, eliminating the danger, restoring the original condition, compensating for the loss, and apologising.
On August 19 of the same year, Zhongwei Intermediate People's Court pointed out that the CBCGDF was not a suitable subject because its work on biodiversity conservation and green development did not belong to public welfare activities of environmental protection. On August 27, 2015, CBCGDF appealed to the Higher People's Court of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (hereinafter referred to as Ningxia Higher Court) on the subject qualification. On November 6, 2015, the Ningxia Higher Court ruled that the lawsuit of CBCGDF was rejected on the same grounds. On November 24, 2015, the CBCGDF filed a retrial application with the Supreme People's Court. On December 2, 2015, the Supreme People's Court officially filed a case for retrial application. On January 22, 2016, the Supreme People's Court made a civil ruling and decided to review 8 environmental public interest litigations in the Tengger Desert pollution.
On January 28, 2016, the Supreme People's Court made a final ruling. The first and second rulings of the Tengger Desert Pollution Public Interest litigation case found that the CBCGDF did not have the qualification to file an environmental civil public interest litigation, which is related to the improper judicial interpretation and understanding of the Environmental Protection Law and the Environmental Public Interest litigation. Therefore, the original ruling should be corrected.
In February 2016, after the final judgement of the Supreme People's Court, Zhongwei Intermediate People's Court accepted the application of CBCGDF that appealed to a total of 8 enterprises, which were Zhongwei Meiliyuan Water Co., Ltd., Ningxia Lanfeng Fine Chemical Co., Ltd., Ningxia Huayu Chemical Co., Ltd., Ningxia Desert Chemical Co., Ltd., Ningxia Zhongwei Dalong Chemical Technology Co., Ltd., Ningxia Ruitai Technology Co., Ltd., Ningxia Mingsheng Dyeing Co., Ltd., Zhongwei Xinsanyuan Chemical Co., Ltd., of public interest litigation for soil pollution damage compensation.
On August 28, 2017, the Tengger Desert Pollution Public Interest Litigation case was settled by mediation.  The eight polluting enterprises involved in the case should pay CNY 569 million (USD 82,463,768.1) for the restoration of the contaminated soil and for the prevention of polluting soil again, and another CNY 6 million (USD 869,565) to a public welfare fund for environmental damage .
On October 9, 2018, it has been reported that, according to people familiar with the matter, the company has invested more than 300 million yuan in environmental restoration and pollution prevention, but there were still more than CNY 200 million (USD 28,985,507) yuan to be spent. The environmental damage public welfare fund, which contained 6 million yuan, was still in the account of the Zhongwei court. The use of the fund has not yet been determined, and it has not been used for the pollution control of the Tengger Desert. To start using this fund, it was necessary for the CBCGDF to discuss with the local government on how to use it for the treatment of the Tengger Desert. Although the CBCGDF has made many representations with the local government of Zhongwei on how to use this funds, it has not yet been determined. The reason why this environmental public welfare fund has not been used for desert pollution control, Wang Wenyong, the legal director of the CBCGDF, explained that the initial agreement reached by this fund was to establish an environmental charity trust, and set up a decision-making committee according to the scope of application of the trust fund. This committee would be composed of experts, local government officials, deputies to the National People's Congress, and representatives of social organisations. They would vote for the specific use of the funds, as long as it meets the purpose of use. “Afterwards some other proposals were proposed, such as greening for industrial parks, environmental projects for the Tengger Industrial Park and etc., and therefore, it has not been implemented in accordance with the original agreement. We have consulted with the courts and local governments several times, but, in the end, these programs have not been implemented." Wang Wenyong said. However, he said if the specific plan was still not implemented in the near future, it would return to the original agreement that established an environmental charity trust.