January 6, 2017

Southern Mongolia: Stunning Picture Series Uncovers Steelmills’ Illegal Practices

Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Daily Mail

China’s President promised throughout 2016 to hold on to the government’s plans to reduce the country’s carbon dioxide emissions - even after a potential withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Nevertheless,  factory owners in Southern Mongolia still manage to bribe their way out of the shut-down of their most-polluting steel furnaces, where workers are facing inhuman working conditions often described as “hell on earth”. Photojournalist, Kevin Frayer, has now published a set of pictures which uncovers the demeaning conditions under which the steel workers have to slave through their nightshift. As a result of this disrespect for the environment and state regulations, smog and respiratory diseases remain rampant throughout all major cities of the wider Mongolian region, causing unprecedented numbers of respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, increasing infant and child mortality rates.

Below is an article published by the Daily Mail:

Stunning photographs taken from inside an illegal steel factory in rural China gives a rare glimpse into the brutal working conditions that Mongolian labourers endure through the night.

The photos, taken by photojournalist Kevin Frayer in an arid region in the country's north called Inner Mongolia, capture hardened workers covered in grime and sweat as they heap coal into blazing furnaces in total darkness. 

China has vowed to shut down privately owned steel, coal, and other-high polluting factories scattered across rural areas as it strives to slash its emissions of carbon dioxide. 

But in many cases, factory owners say they pay informal 'fines' to local inspectors and then re-open. 

In September, President Xi Jinping promised to make China a 'beautiful country with blue sky, green vegetation and clear rivers.' 

The enforcement comes as the future of U.S. support for the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement is in question, leaving China poised as an unlikely leader in the international effort against climate change. 

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has sent mixed signals about whether he will withdraw the U.S. from commitments to curb greenhouse gases that, according to scientists, are causing the earth's temperature to rise.

Trump once declared that the concept of global warming was 'created' by China in order to hurt U.S. manufacturing. 

China's leadership has stated that any change in U.S. climate policy will not affect its commitment to implement the climate action plan.

While the world's biggest polluter, China is also a global leader in establishing renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Despite China's efforts to cut back on pollution, hundreds of Mongolians braved frigid weather on Monday [2 January 2017] to stage a protest in the country's capital demanding that the government do more to address worsening air pollution that they fear is sickening their children and shortening their lives. 

The demonstrators gathered in a public square in front of government offices, holding banners with slogans such as 'Let's give fresh air to our future children,' ''Smog is silent killer' and 'We can't breathe.'

'We are desperate and we are organising this demonstration to make authorities feel our frustration and anger,' said Purevkhuu Tserendorj, one of the protest's organisers and a mother of two.

The air temperature hovered around minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit).

According to UNICEF, the United Nations' children's agency, air pollution is linked to the three diseases that have resulted in the most 'lost life-years' in Mongolia.

The agency said in February that pneumonia and other respiratory infections were among the leading causes of death among Mongolian children under the age of 5. 

It said that the lungs of children living in highly polluted districts of Ulaanbaatar, the capital, do not function as well as those living in rural areas, with real risks of them suffering chronic respiratory diseases when they're older.

The protesters demanded that the government increase the number of beds in hospitals that have been overcrowded with sick children and develop a plan to reduce air pollution by 80 percent by 2018. 

They also urged the government to install air filters in kindergartens in the capital's slum areas, which are worst-hit by the pollution.