The Stream, July 12: Coal Mining Threatens Poland Lakes, Communities Say

The Global Rundown

Coal mining activities in central Poland are draining groundwater and causing lake levels to fall, according to communities in the region. China is debating whether or not to issue a major loan to Mongolia for a hydropower dam that has raised Russian concerns. Hundreds of gas stations in China have been closed or damaged by floods, while floods in India killed nearly two dozen people and displaced thousands more. El Nino and climate change together produced dry, hot conditions that caused an extensive mangrove die-off in northern Australia. In Victoria, the government is using the state’s 4-year-old desalination plant for the first time. China is behind on its goal to produce more desalinated water. After Ireland’s government suspended water charges, the country’s water utility has collected less than half of what it is owed.

“The state of the lake today is catastrophic and nearby lakes are affected too as they are all inter-connected.” –Grzegorz Skowroński, mayor of Wilczyn, Poland, on rapidly declining water levels in nearby Lake Wilczyńskie. Communities in the region blame coal mining activities for draining groundwater and releasing it downstream to the Baltic Sea, which in turn draws down lake levels and dries out farm fields and forests. The mining companies dispute this claim. (Reuters)

By The Numbers

22 people Number killed in recent flash floods in the Indian states of Assam and Madhya Pradesh. After months of drought, monsoon rains across the country were 35 percent above average last week, and floods displaced thousands of people. Reuters

$20.3 million Amount the state government of Victoria, Australia spent to order 50 gigaliters of water from its desalination plant, marking the first time the plant will be used since it was completed in 2012. Some lawmakers have derided the decision as costly and unnecessary in light of optimistic rainfall forecasts. Australian Broadcasting Corporation

1.03 million tons per day Amount of desalinated water China was capable of producing as of December 2015, less than half of its goal. Cost concerns and fluctuating freshwater supplies are hindering development. MIT Technology Review

500 gas stations Number owned by Chinese oil and gas company Sinopec that were damaged or closed by extensive flooding in China over the past month. Some of the company’s refining equipment, pipelines, and storage tanks were also affected by high water levels. Reuters

$194.8 million Amount in water bills still owed to Irish Water, Ireland’s national utility. The government in May voted to suspend water charges for nine months, after its introduction of the charges in 2014 created strong public backlash. The Irish Times

Science, Studies, And Reports

Dry, hot conditions triggered by climate change and the global El Nino weather pattern caused 7,000 hectares of mangroves to die along Australia’s northern coast, according to an ecologist at James Cook University. The die-off, one of the worst on record, could increase the amount of sediment flowing onto coral reefs and seagrass beds from rivers. The mangroves typically filter the sediment out before it reaches the ocean. Guardian

On The Radar

Mongolia’s plans to build the Egiin Gol hydropower plant, requiring a 103-meter-high dam on the Eg River, could be in jeopardy as China debates whether or not to loan it $1 billion. China’s hesitation is due to concerns from Russia, which believes the dam could harm Lake Baikal. Bloomberg