Crowd Protests Planned Incinerator in China's Guangdong Province

2013-08-29
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guangdong-incinerator-protest-july-2013.jpg
Protesters were injured in clashes with police during a demonstration over the planned waste incinerator plant in Huadu, Guangdong on July 19, 2013.
Photo courtesy of a protester

Hundreds of people demonstrated outside government buildings in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong on Thursday over plans to build a waste-incineration plant on their doorstep, residents said.

The protesters hung banners outside government headquarters in Guangdong's Puzhai township, which read "Boycott the garbage incinerator power plant!" "Say no to cancer!" and "Protect the health of future generations!".

The protest is the latest in a string of similar demonstrations in Guangdong against waste incineration power generators, which earn huge sums in government subsidies for every ton of garbage burned.

"[It went on for] one or two hours," a Puzhai resident surnamed Chen said in an interview after the demonstration dispersed peacefully.

He said feelings were running high against the plant in Puzhai, where people fear their health will be ruined by pollution.

"This most certainly cannot be built," Chen said. "All my family, all my relatives, went [to protest]."

'Everyone very worried'

Plans for the waste incineration plant first became known on July 19, after they had progressed as far as the contract-signing stage without local people finding out, according to a post from user @1988niankaishiweile on Monday.

A second Puzhai resident said the government had gone ahead with its plans without any public consultation.

"If they are going to build it here, then they should seek the opinions of local people," said the resident, who declined to give his name.

"Everyone living nearby is very worried about it."

He said local people had first heard about the plans in early August after activists took steps to alert the public about the planned incinerator.

"Some of them were handing out leaflets to all of us around here," the Puzhai resident said. "Ordinary people like us don't get to see [official documents], not even if they are made public."

Growing middle-class movement

Three decades of breakneck economic growth have left Guangdong with a seriously degraded environment, causing a fast-maturing environmental movement to emerge among the region's middle class.

Previous attempts to build similar plants elsewhere in the province have drawn widespread criticism over local government access to the huge potential profits linked to waste disposal projects.

Guangdong authorities last month detained a large number of people who had called for the cancellation of a controversial waste incinerator in Shiling township in the provincial capital Guangzhou's outlying Huadu district.

They had planned to stage a mass march to government offices on July 23 to voice their opposition to the waste project, four days after a 30,000-strong protest led to bloody clashes with the police.

In 2009, during a similar protest in Panyu, local residents said that incinerators could earn 140 yuan (U.S. $20) in government subsidies for every ton of trash burned, which could amount to 480,000 yuan (U.S. $70,000) per day, or 173 million yuan (U.S. $25 million) each year.

Local residents fear the plants will endanger their health and the environment, while officials say Guangdong has to find some way to dispose of mountains of garbage.

Ordinary Chinese people are becoming increasingly active in support of environmental issues in recent years, putting pressure on local governments to implement the country's comprehensive environmental protection laws.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.