Alexa Brunet, On the Bitter Banks of the Amur River, from PRIVATE 45 – Development. An Ecological Question
Region of Khabarovsk, Russian Far East. In November 2005, a petrochemical plant exploded in northern China, polluting the Songhua river which is one of the tributaries of the Amur river. Contaminated waters touched the river at Khabarovsk, on the border between Russia and China, before drifting towards its estuary at the Tatar Strait. Next spring, once released by melting ice, benzene and other polluting products will penetrate the water table, viciously contaminating streams as well as local fauna and flora.
Ten months after this catastrophe, I travelled 300 kilometers down the Amur River to meet the inhabitants of the region. This collection is an attempt to document how their daily lives were transformed by the catastrophe. Today, small ethnic groups of fishermen, such as the Nanaïs, who traditionally survive by selling fish, have been forced to find new ways of surviving, often getting involved in corruption and crime. The fish can no longer be eaten and the river is abandoned. People have been forced to move to the banks of other tributaries, or towards the ocean in order to be able to fish and respect quotas. This isolated region has also suffered raging fires that have destroyed forests, killing animals vital to local people’s survival.