Tag Archives: environmental pollution

China Bans Chai Jing’s Antipollution Documentary about Smog in China

China Bans Chai Jing’s Antipollution Documentary about Smog in China


By T.V. Antony Raj


Ten years ago, I asked what that smell in the air was,
and I got no answer. Now I know. It’s the smell of money.
– Chai Jing, journalist and documentary filmmaker


Chai Jing's review - Under the Dome – Investigating China’s Smog
Chai Jing’s review – Under the Dome – Investigating China’s Smog


The Chinese documentary film “Under the Dome” was released online on Saturday, February 28, 2015, just before China’s annual “two meetings” period – the meetings of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in the following week.

The film highlights the severe pollution problem in China.

Major internet platforms such as Youku Tudou and Tencent aired it without interference from film censors. On Tencent alone, it racked up more than 170 million views and sparked a huge amount of debates online.

Chen Jining, China’s environmental protection minister, praised the documentary as “worthy of admiration” and told reporters it should “encourage efforts by people to improve air quality”.

People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, re-posted the film and published an interview with Chai Jing.

Debates on environmental issues dominated the current session of the National People’s Congress, in Beijing. According to some correspondents, the popularity of the impassioned, independent film about environmental pollution appears to have brought jitters to the communist authorities.

Early this month the Chinese authorities banned the popular documentary just two days after Premier Li Keqiang called pollution a blight on people’s lives and had promised to fight it with all the government’s might. It was no longer aired on Youku Tudou, and Tencent from Friday March 6, 2015. The authorities instructed the media to stop writing about the documentary.


Chai Jing - former investigative reporter and a celebrity TV anchor.
Chai Jing – former investigative reporter and a celebrity TV anchor.


Chai Jing is a former investigative reporter and a celebrity TV anchor at the state broadcaster China Central Television. She has a good following among university students with a high-level of social consciousness.

Last year, she quit her job to look after her baby daughter born with a benign lung tumor.

For almost a year, Chai Jing conducted critical investigations of China’s massive air pollution problem. She used $160,000 of her own money and one year to produce the 104-minute documentary “Under the Dome”,  a wake-up call for China.

Chai Jing confesses that, like many other Chinese citizens, it was only recently that she learned the difference between fog and smog. Here is a transcript of the introduction by her:

“This graph shows that the Beijing PM2.5 index during January 2013. In just one month, there were 25 days of smog.

I was in Beijing at that time and as I looked back on this curve over the course of that year, I tried to recall the senses and emotions. But I couldn’t. At that time, everyone said random weather patterns caused the haze. Hardly anyone took it seriously.

In that month, I made four business trips: to Shaanxi, Henan, Jiangxi and Zhejiang. Looking back at the sky of these trips, it seems like China at that time was immersed in smog blanketing 25 provinces and 600 million people. I was right in the middle of it, but I didn’t even realize it. But the sensation in my throat remained. When I was in Xian, I was coughing so badly that I couldn’t even sleep. I cut up a lemon and put it beside my pillow.

When I returned to Beijing, I discovered that I was pregnant … At that moment, I knew she must be a girl … When I heard her [baby’s] heartbeat for the first time, there was nothing I wanted more than for her to be healthy. But she was diagnosed with a benign tumor which would require surgery immediately after birth… Before I could even hold her, she was carried off to the operating room … When I saw my little angel after the surgery, she was still unconscious. The Doctor said,… When I saw my little angel after the surgery, she was still unconscious. The Doctor said,… At that moment, I knew she must be a girl … When I heard her [baby’s] heartbeat for the first time, there was nothing I wanted more than for her to be healthy. But she was diagnosed with a benign tumor which would require surgery immediately after birth… … When I saw my little angel after the surgery, she was still unconscious. The Doctor said,

“The operation was very successful. But there is one thing you have to forgive me for: She is so chubby that it took several attempts to find a vein for the anesthetic.”

I took her tiny hand full of needle marks, and I held it to my face. I called her name until she opened her eyes and looked at me.

I’m a very lucky person. After that, I quit my job so I could spend my time keeping her company and looking after her. As long as we are all together, safe and sound, nothing else matters.

But already on our way home from the hospital, I started to feel scared. The smell of the black smoke and burning fire was everywhere. I covered her nose with my handkerchief. I know how stupid that seems, since in her struggle to breathe through it, she would just breath in more smog.

Before that moment, I’d never been afraid of air pollution and I’d never worn a filter mask. But now, there is a little life in your arms, her breathing, eating and drinking are all on your shoulders. That’s when you begin to feel afraid.

That severe smog at the end of 2013 lasted about tw months. The continuing smog made me feel like it was more than just a random occurrence and that it couldn’t possibly be over quickly. It was the same sky that I saw ten years ago, when I was in Shanxi.”

In 2004, Chai Jing interviewed a six-year-old girl named Wang Huiqing.

Chai: “Have you ever seen a real star before?”

Wang Huiqing: “No, I haven’t.”

Chai: “What about blue sky?”

Wang Huiqing: “I’ve seen one that’s a little blue.”

Chai: “What about white clouds?”

Wang Huiqing: “No, I haven’t.”

Chai then says: “When I interviewed this six-year-old girl in 2004, it didn’t cross my mind at all that what she said could be the same experience my daughter would have.”

Later on in her presentation Chai describes how difficult it was to explain to her daughter why she shouldn’t go outdoors. She says:

“These photos show each day of 2014 in Beijing. Only when the air quality was good would I dare to take my daughter outside with me. But how many good days were there? 175 were polluted. That means that in one year, half of the time I had no choice but to keep her at home like a prisoner.

Sometimes, when I get up in the morning, I see my daughter standing in front of our balcony smacking the glass window. This is her method of telling me that she wants to go outside.

I think, one day, she will ask me ‘Mama, why do you keep me shut inside? What is really out there? Will anything hurt me?’

Everything I have done throughout this year is to answer the questions she will ask me in the future. What is smog? Where does it come from? What can we do about it? ‘

Rivers in Shanxi: 84% are polluted, 62% are no longer usable. Chai speaks to an official named Wang.

Chai: “Sir, do you think this is still a river?”

Wang: “It’s not river water, it’s wastewater. Tests show that the annual average Benzopyrene is a powerful carcinogen. As time goes on, it accumulates in one’s body. Once enough of it accumulates, it increases a person’s risk of getting cancer.”


Tourists wear facial masks while visiting the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing in January. (Photo: Li Wen/Xinhua/Landov)
Tourists wear facial masks while visiting the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing in January. (Photo: Li Wen/Xinhua/Landov)


Chai Jing mentions the number of polluted days in some cities in China in 2014: Tianjin – 197, Shenyang – 152, Chengdu – 125, Lanzhou – 112, and Shijiazhuang – 264.

Chai Jing interviews local officials who protect industries that create jobs and pay taxes, but pollute the environment. She poses some tough questions about the politics and economics behind the smog. In one scene she confronts an official about fake emission stickers.

Chai: “So after so many years your law enforcement powers are still completely toothless?”

Officer: “Nowadays I don’t dare open my mouth out of fear that people will see I have no teeth.”

Some scenes in the film are shocking. In one scene during a visit to a hospital operating room, viewers are shown the damage China’s polluted air can do to a person’s lungs.

Chai Jing’s documentary focuses more on pollution and its effects on the daily lives of millions of Chinese. She doesn’t explicitly criticize China’s model of economic development. She does not assign any blame or call for China’s leaders or the party to be held accountable for their policies. However, she explains that the environmental pollution is due to the rapid industrialization. She blames the fast-growth development policies of the past which are linked to corruption for creating environmental side-effects.

Chai Jing’s documentary could be summarized by her words:

“I once watched a TV series titled ‘Under the Dome‘. It was about a small town suddenly enclosed by a dome that appeared out of nowhere. Cut off from the world, no way out. But one day, I realized that we’re all living in the same reality.”





Sterlite Industries Back in Business


Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj


The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in its judgment upheld its interim order of May 31, 2013, and has allowed the Tuticorin Copper Smelter of Sterlite Industries to continue to operate.


Sterlite’s copper-smelting unit in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. (PTI File photo)
Sterlite’s copper-smelting unit in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. (PTI File photo)

Based in Mumbai, India, Sterlite Industries (India) Limited, a unit of London-listed resources conglomerate Vedanta Resources is a diversified and integrated metals and mining group operating in Tuticorin, India. It has the country’s largest copper smelter which produces 30,000 tonnes of refined copper a month – or more than half of India’s total production. The company produces copper cathodes and cast copper rods for use in the transformer and the wires and cables industries. It markets its copper products directly to original equipment manufacturers and traders.

The company has diverse operations. It mines bauxite, and produces aluminum conductors and various other aluminum products; mines zinc ore, and produces zinc ingots and lead ingots. In addition to these products the Sterlite Industries produces various chemical products, such as sulphuric acids, phosphoric acids, phospho gypsum, hydrofluosilicic acids, and granulated slag.

Further, the company is involved in paper business as well as in trading gold. It markets its copper products directly to original equipment manufacturers and traders.

The Sterlite Industries’ copper smelter was commissioned in 1996. From the beginning, the plant has been mired in controversy. Originally it was planned to erect the plant in Maharashtra and Goa, but it faced severe opposition from the people there. However, the AIADMK regime under Jayalalithaa welcomed the project by allotting land at Tuticorin. Since then, Mr. V.Gopalswamy (Vaiko), the general secretary of MDMK party has protested against the project.

On March 23, 2013, massive gas leak, suspected to be Sulphur dioxide or trioxide, caused suffocation and panic around the Sterlite Copper plant between 5 am and 8 am. One Sterlite contract worker, Shailesh Mahadev, 35, reportedly succumbed to exposure to the gas. Following the alleged leakage of noxious gas, residents of Tuticorin town, New Colony, market area, Perumalpuram and SIPCOT area said they experienced sneezing and a few complained of asphyxiation.


Following the incident, environmental activists blamed the Sterlite Industries. They staged a demonstration near Rajaji Park on Palayamkottai Road and sought the closure of the copper smelter. Officials from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), Joint Chief Inspector of Factories, Revenue Divisional Officer K. Latha, and Tuticorin Tahsildar Alwar reached the Sterlite company and inspected the copper smelter unit.

TNPCB officials said a sensor in the smelter’s smokestack showed sulphur dioxide levels were more than double the permitted concentration at the time emissions were reported and had “breached limits prescribed by the Board”. TNPCB ordered the shutdown of the smelter with immediate effect until further notice.

However, Sterlite Industries denied the smelter was the source a gas leak. The smelter’s general manager of projects said there were no emissions at the time because the plant shut down for maintenance from March 21st to March 23rd was starting up after two days of maintenance, not producing copper, and high readings in the smokestack were likely a result of workers recalibrating the sensors.

Ashish Kumar, Collector of Tuticorin, said that preliminary inquiries suggested that there was a leak of sulphur dioxide.

The TNPCB issued the order to shut down the plant with immediate effect and the power utility on Friday night disconnected the power supply to the plant. We are in the process of stopping operations

The process of shutting down the plant began on Friday (March 29) night with the disconnection of the power supply to the plant.

MDMK’s general secretary Vaiko, thanked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa for ordering closure in the interests of the public and to protect the environment.

National Green Tribunal (NGT), a fast-track court hearing the case on allowing the plant to reopen, set up an expert committee to measure emissions and check the working condition of machinery, among other things.

On May 31st, the NGT had, in an interim order, allowed Sterlite to commence operations under the supervision of the expert committee set up by the tribunal.

The expert committee submitted its report on July 10, 2013. “The emissions from all the stacks were well within the permissible limit prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board when the plant was in normal operation. … Upon stack sampling or ambient air quality monitoring, it is not being found that the industry was emitting sulphur dioxide gas or substances when the plant was in normal operation, which were in violation to the prescribed standards,” the report states,” said the report by P.S.T. Sai and Ligy Philip.

The apex environment court said further in its order that the expert committee had made certain recommendations to improve the working of the plant. It also noted that Sterlite Industries has agreed to comply with the recommendations within a time-bound schedule.

Justice Swatanter Kumar
Justice Swatanter Kumar

On August 8, 2013, the National Green Tribunal headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar suppressed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board closure notice served to Sterlite Industries. It upheld its interim orders of May 31 and July 15, which permitted the Vedanta Group’s Sterlite copper smelter factory in Tuticorin to resume full operations on the basis of the report submitted by the expert committee appointed by the tribunal. The National Green Tribunal gave its final clean chit to the Sterlite Industries’ copper smelter plant in Tuticorin. At the same time, keeping in mind the issues raised by the state pollution control board, the tribunal has issued a host of conditions which the factory must comply with. It has also set up a committee to check the health of people around Tuticorin and Sipcot industrial area in the district.


I’m Only a Child, …


By T. V. Antony Raj


This incredible 20 years old video that I have included in this post made a deep impression on me.  I cried and sobbed listening to the 12-year-old girl.

Severn Cullis-SuzukiSevern Cullis-Suzuk was born on November 30, 1979 and raised in Vancouver, Canada. Her mother is writer Tara Elizabeth Cullis. Her father, geneticist and environmental activist David Suzuki, is a third-generation Japanese Canadian.

While attending Lord Tennyson Elementary School in French Immersion, at age 9, she founded the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO), a group of children dedicated to learning and teaching other youngsters about environmental issues.

In 1992, at age 12, Severn raised money with members of ECO to attend the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio Summit, Rio Conference, Earth Summit – a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 3 June to 14 June 1992, five thousand miles from their home.

Along with group members Michelle Quigg, Vanessa Suttil, and Morgan Geisler, Severn Cullis-Suzuki presented environmental issues from a youth perspective at the summit.

Severn spoke about the hole in the ozone layer, pollution, the devastation of the forests and extinction of many species of wild life and vegetation. She charged that we adults have no idea of how to fix these things, in fact can’t fix them, and that we must change our ways. “If you don’t know how to fix it, stop breaking it,” she pleaded.

Severn’s amazing speech left her audience completely stupefied and speechless. After she ended her speech she received a standing ovation.

She received a lot of praise for her speech in the press – even Al Gore Jr., 45th Vice President of the United States (1993–2001), under President Bill Clinton called it “the best speech at Rio.”

The video of her speech has since become a viral hit, popularly known as “The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes”.  This video has 2,018,732 hits to date.

In 1993, she was honoured in the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global 500 Roll of Honour. In 1993, Doubleday published her book Tell the World, a 32-page book of environmental steps for families.



Here’s the transcript of her speech:

“Hello, I am Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O – the Environmental Children’s Organization.

We are a group of 12 and 13 year-olds trying to make a difference, Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me.

We’ve raised all the money to come here ourselves, to come 5,000 miles to tell you adults you must change your ways.

Coming up here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future.

Losing my future is not like losing an election, or a few points on the stock market.

I am here to speak for all generations to come.

I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard.

I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet, because they have nowhere left to go.

I am afraid to go out in the sun now, because of the holes in our ozone.

I am afraid to breathe the air, because I don’t know what chemicals are in it.

I used to go fishing in Vancouver, my home, with my Dad until, just a few years ago, we found a fish full of cancers.

And now we hear of animals and plants going extinct every day, vanishing forever.

In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterflies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.

Did you have to worry of these things when you were my age?

All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions.

I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realize, neither do you.

You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.

You don’t know how to bring the salmon back up a dead stream.

You don’t know how to bring back an animal now extinct.

And you can’t bring back the forest that once grew where there is now a desert.

If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it.

Here you may be delegates of your governments, business people, organizers, reporters or politicians. But, really, you’re mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles and all of you are someone’s child.

I’m only a child, yet I know we are all part of a family, 5 billion strong, in fact 30 million species strong. And borders and governments will never change that.

I’m only a child, yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.

In my anger, I am not blind and in my fear I am not afraid of telling the world how I feel.

In my country we make so much waste, we buy and throw away, buy and throw away, buy and throw away and yet Northern countries will not share with the needy.

Even when we have more than enough we are afraid to share, we are afraid to let go of some of our wealth.

In Canada, we live a privileged life. We’ve plenty of food, water and shelter. We have watches, bicycles, computers and television sets. The list could go on for 2 days.

Two days ago here in Brazil, we were shocked when we spent time with some children living on the streets.

This is what one child told us, ‘I wish I was rich and if I were, I would give all the street children food, clothes, medicines, shelter and love and affection’.

If a child on the street who has nothing is willing to share, why are we who have everything still so greedy?

I can’t stop thinking that these are children my own age, that it makes a tremendous difference where you are born. And that I could be one of those children living in the favelas of Rio.

I could be a child starving in Somalia, or a victim of war in the Middle East or a beggar in India.

I am only a child, yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on finding environmental answers ending poverty and in finding treaties, what a wonderful place this earth would be.

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us how to behave in the world.

You teach us to not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others and to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures, to share, not be greedy.

Then, why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?

Do not forget why you are attending these conferences, who you are doing this for.

We are your own children.

You are deciding what kind of a world we are growing up in.

Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying ‘Everything is going to be all right, it’s not the end of the world, and we are doing the best we can’.

But I don’t think you can say that to us anymore.

Are we even on your list of priorities?

My dad always says, ‘You are what you do, not what you say.’

Well, what you do makes me cry at night.

You grown-ups say you love us.

But I challenge you, please, make your actions reflect your words.

Thank you.

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