China has been experiencing a steel addiction for the past decade, and not just in terms of consumption . In one city alone, there is an estimated 3 billion tons of excess capacity. This blog post will discuss how China’s obsession with steel production has led to environmental devastation in one city and what we can learn from it about our own consumption patterns.
The Chinese city of Benxi is home to many people that are suffering the consequences of China’s steel production obsession. The majority of its residents work in steel factories, which produce an abundance of both pollution and jobs. While this industry provides employment opportunity for thousands of workers, it also has a devastating impact on their health.
While some people enjoy riding bikes and jogging along Benxi’s beautiful tree-lined streets, the majority of people that live here find themselves planting trees to surround their homes in order to keep out some of the pollution. There is also a prevalent problem with acid rain which is caused by this steel production.
Benxi’s problems with pollution are compounded by the fact that the city is surrounded by mountains, which traps the pollution in it. The Chinese government has invested money into programs aimed at reducing steel production to improve Benxi’s air quality to an extent, but for now there are still significant amounts of smog blanketing the city. This makes breathing difficult for people living here and reduces visibility across the city by 50%.
This pollution has negative impacts on people’s health. One local doctor estimates that over 60% of the adults in Benxi suffer from pulmonary diseases, while many children are developing respiratory problems at an early age due to inhaling too much smog. These statistics may be exaggerated, but it would only take one trip to Benxi to realize that something is wrong. During my first day there, I had trouble breathing due to the smog and experienced a burning sensation in my eyes.
Another significant problem that plagues Benxi is acid rain. Acid rain has killed off almost all vegetation around the city, which makes it difficult for people living here to live an outdoor lifestyle. The majority of people here go outside wearing masks to avoid inhaling too much smog. Many children are sent to live in the rural countryside with relatives where they can breathe fresh air and drink clean water, but it does not seem like this is a long-term solution because of the high youth unemployment rate there.
While steel production provides thousands of jobs and other opportunities for people here, this industry has a significant negative impact on Benxi’s environment and quality of life for its residents. The government is slowly taking steps to address these problems, but it might take years before there is actual change. In the meantime, the local steel companies will continue to pour money into protecting their interests and fighting the government’s proposed reforms.
This blog post was written by our intern, Prentice Li. Interns like Prentice are crucial to our mission: Bringing well-researched and objective content to public attention and forcing company transparency and open dialogue about environmental sustainability in China’s business world. The above article is part of this investigation. You can download the full report here .