Stories from the Grassroots: The Greengrants Blog

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    China’s water problem: the grassroots road to accountability

    Aug 21, 2015 | No Comments


    By Julie Dugdale

    Rampant water pollution isn’t breaking news in China. It’s a way of life.

    The images are no longer shocking: children swimming in garbage-choked lakes; waterways congested by bloated, poisoned fish rotting at the surface; industrial pipes openly spewing torrents of chemical waste into rivers and reservoirs.

    China’s Pollution Status Quo

    The numbers paint as bleak a picture as the imagery. More than 42 percent of China’s rivers and 75 percent of its lakes and reservoirs are too severely polluted for human consumption and fishing, says International Rivers.

    Perhaps more important, the increasing toxicity in water that serves as a drinking, cooking, washing, and bathing source coincides with an uptick in debilitating public health problems, such as the rise of the Chinese “cancer village.” More than 450 such epicenters of unexplained disease have cropped up around contaminated waterways.

    The culprits are many: Power plants, chemical plants, dye factories, paper mills, metal smelters, and more have largely gone unregulated during China’s breakneck rate of industrialization.

    It’s not uncommon for mega companies to pay off the poorest villages in exchange for waste dumping in their waterways.

    Plus, more than 87,000 hydroelectric dams—meant to ease the country’s unrelenting dependence on coal energy to fuel its manufacturing surge—have wreaked havoc on the riparian ecosystems and forced people off their land.

    Global Greengrants Gets Involved

    Here’s how two Global Greengrants Fund grantees are fighting for transparency and accountability when it comes to China’s poisoned waterways.

    Green Anhui: A Leader is Born

    Citizens formed Green Anhui to lobby for industry transparency in the face of high cancer rates in Anhui Province, which is polluted largely by glass and chemical plants.

    Global Greengrants was one of its first funders in 2005. Since then, Green Anhui has burgeoned into one of the country’s foremost grassroots leaders. It’s track record includes:

    1. Setting up nine volunteer stations along the Huai River for monthly pollution monitoring.
    2. Forming citizen groups to pursue environmental litigation, resulting in 15 successful lawsuits (many regarding fishermen’s rights and health issues).
    3. Creating a hazardous waste network to help industries more efficiently and effectively dispose of waste.
    4. Exerting influence on the government to enforce standards more stringently.

    Today, Green Anhui is a model for other environmental initiatives across the country.

    Green Qilu: Gaining Momentum

    Launched in 2012, Green Qilu works in the Shandong Province to increase awareness of and engagement in the water pollution crisis, targeting both the public and the offending industries.

    With Global Greengrants’ help, citizens have developed a Pollution Information Transparency Index, which scores the industries in Shandong’s cities on their pollution monitoring. The group deploys volunteers to dumping spots to test the pollutant levels, log the results in a public online database, and post permanent signs displaying legal contaminant levels.

    Green Qilu’s approach is a diplomatic one that’s built strong relationships with stakeholders.

    Grassroots efforts such as community river walks, school trips, and family outreach are ongoing and critical to Green Qilu’s mission, and have already rendered Shandong the leading province for pollution monitoring.

    What's next? Self sufficiency

    China lake

    In early 2016, a new law in China that blocks incoming funding from foreign NGOs may jeopardize international organizations’ continued support of Chinese environmental action. This means stronger domestic involvement in environmental initiatives is crucial. Civil groups must work toward establishing a self-sufficient system and find ways to tap into in-country resources for organizational support.

    One thing is for certain: Saving the China’s most precious natural resource is non-negotiable.


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      Sending support to Kenya’s Athi River

      Aug 13, 2015 | No Comments

      The Athi River is Kenya’s second longest waterway and one of its most endangered. Violet Matiru knows grassroots grants can help. A grant advisor in East Africa, Violet is strategically directing Greengrants to riverside communities. Her goal: to support the… Read more

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        Hope, a fitting name for an extraordinary woman

        Aug 10, 2015 | No Comments

        By Kristall Laursen, Global Giving Network Manager Growing up poor in the Philippines, Hope Hervilla took a job on a banana plantation when she was a young girl. She made a mere $2 a day. It was backbreaking labor, but… Read more

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          Afro-Colombians campaign against aerial fumigation – and win

          Aug 3, 2015 | No Comments

          By Carley St. Clair For 21 years, the drone of low-flying planes has been omnipresent throughout the state of Cauca, Colombia. Otherwise healthy people have had troubling breathing, babies have been born with birth defects, women have had miscarriage after… Read more

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            The Summit on Women and Climate—a year later

            Jul 28, 2015 | No Comments

            By Katy Neusteter, Director of Communications A year ago today, I was boarding a flight to Bali for the 2014 Summit on Women and Climate. I’ve been thinking a lot about that moment in my life. I had an 11-month-old… Read more

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              Global Greengrants welcomes new staff

              Jul 28, 2015 | No Comments

              Every year, more than 700 grants are processed in our Boulder, Colorado, office and sent or wired to grant recipients around the globe. We are happy to welcome these new members to the Global Greengrants team! Jenna Daucunas, Development Administrative… Read more

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                The power of unity: lessons from the Biennial of the Americas

                Jul 27, 2015 | One Comment

                By Nicole Schmitt, Grants Administrator Imagine if cities around the world united to address systemic social justice and environmental problems. On July 17, I attended a panel discussion at the Biennial of the Americas—a festival to celebrate ideas, culture, art,… Read more

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                  Communities rise against toxic polluters in South Africa’s Vaal Triangle

                  Jul 27, 2015 | No Comments

                  Black communities affected by environmental toxins fight back against the corporations damaging their children's health. Read more

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                    Lessons from LGBTQ marriage equality

                    Jun 30, 2015 | No Comments

                    Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the United States. Those first moments after I heard the news felt golden, giddy, like everything was coming together. It was an oasis; a mini-vacation from worrying about the state of Things. Read more

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                      VOA profiles Winnie Asiti

                      Jun 30, 2015 | No Comments

                      Photo by Juan Soriano Winnie Asiti, our Next Generation Climate Board advisor in Kenya, is profiled in VOA (Voice of America): “A young Kenyan activist is part of a fast-moving low cost-movement that is tackling the impact of global warming… Read more