What a week we’ve had in Chongqing! Green Volunteers has been especially generous with their time and resources so that we could have a fulfilling experience.
On Tuesday we visited a wastewater treatment plant unlike any I have ever seen. It was beautiful and smelled of flowers! Really! The plant was filled with plants – yes, plants – that soaked up all the dirt and waste from the used water and sent off clean water to the town’s fish farm. This environmentally friendly way of treating water meant cleaner water in the eventual river, and more money for the town because the fish were healthier and more plentiful.
The next day we had the honor of meeting Mr. Liu, a prominent businessman turned environmentalist and community leader in Chongqing. His bakery has provided much for the local economy, and he was the sole businessman who offered to help the local government reforest a part of the mountain. It had been ravaged by stone mining, and no trees or plants grew there until about 5 years ago. Mr. Liu spent his own money to reforest the land and works closely with the government to ensure the area is maintained and enjoyed by all. He showed us that money does not always lead to greed, and instead can be used for the benefit of all people and the environment. (Plus, we got to eat a lot of cake!)
Our final day was spent visiting two chemical plants outside of the city. The first was built right on the banks of the Yangtze River amongst a residential area, and many people who lived around the plant were getting sick. The river was polluted from the chemicals that ran in every time it rained. With the help of Green Volunteers, the plant was closed and moved to a more remote area of the country. There the company and the local government did a lot of environmental impact assessments (EIA) before allowing the plant to be built. EIAs help companies and communities know what kinds of environmental damages can come from a new facility like this, and can help the plant prepare for emergencies and cleanups for the future. (ELK kids take note: there is a lot of money in becoming an EIA professional!) The local government now monitors the plant daily for chemicals in the wastewater, pollution in the surrounding fields, and to make sure the employees have safe living and working conditions.
I believe that we in the U.S. can continue to learn from our Chinese counterparts who are doing so much to reduce poverty in their country while protecting the environment. While both countries have such a long way to go, environmentalists from both parts of the world are discovering new ways everyday to improve the lives of our people and our Earth. And I’m confident that our ELK kids will lead the way, far into the future.