Africa was once again the destination of JM Eagle CEO Walter Wang, who traveled this July with Columbia University Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs to observe the fruits of their joint Millennium Villages Project, which aims to supply clean drinking water to 125,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa. Wang has been donating plastic water pipe and funds for engineering and design since 2008, with nearly 500 miles of pipe donated to date in Africa. Committee Bridges in 2009 covered Wang’s first trip to Africa to inspect his first Millennium Villages project in Senegal. This year, Wang and Sachs visited Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya.
The innovative economist Sachs heads the United Nations-commissioned Millennium Project and introduced Wang to the scope of Africa’s water crisis. As the largest manufacturer in the world of plastic pipes, JM Eagle was in a good position to help the Millennium Villages scale up their safe water drinking infrastructure.
Even though Africa is the continent with the lowest supply of water in the world, Wang said: “In learning more about the landscape I realized something—Africa is not entirely water deficient, there must be a good water source somewhere—it’s infrastructure deficient. No matter how far it may be, it can be piped to those in need.”
“Water is at the core of economic development and human well-being,” Sachs said. “Thanks to the generosity of private sector leaders like Walter, we are changing that.”
Another project receiving funding from Wang and his wife Shirley was the 2010 Oscar-nominated short, The Warriors of Qiugang, produced by Thomas Lennon and directed by Ruby Yang. The Warriors of Qiugang follows villagers in the poor Anhui town of Qiugang as they become “eco-warriors” organizing to fight for environmental rights against the chemical companies that are poisoning their water, land and air, taking their case all the way to Beijing. The filming itself had a surprising result, as reported by China Daily:
"I am so happy to see the beautiful sky again as it used to be, " said Zhang, the main character in the film and the leader of more than 1,000 villagers in the battle.
He said he appreciated the film's director because he believed the shooting had helped with their battle. . .
All three factories halted production and were relocated in 2008. The companies were not allowed to resume operations until it met emission standards, as requested by the city government.
"Since they've been gone, the terrible smell has also gone and things became much better," Zhang said.
Chen Yun, head of Bengbu City Environment Protection Bureau, said that the government helped the factories clean chemical residuals left in the village, to avoid secondary pollution.
Chen said the city is planning to spend nearly 200 million yuan (30 million U.S. dollars) to improve the quality of water in Baojiagou River, where Qiugang is located.
See a two-minute trailer here. The film was released this January. Lennon and Yang became acquainted with the Wangs when they took the lead in supporting the production of Becoming American: The Chinese Experience, the Bill Moyers PBS television series, which Lennon produced and Yang edited. The Wangs also provided development funds for Lennon and Yang’s 2007 Oscar-winning documentary, The Blood of Yingzhou District.