Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have detained at least 10 people amid clashes between riot police and protesters angry over plans to built a waste incinerator plant near their homes, residents said on Thursday.
"They detained 10 people, and some of them were injured," a resident of Xinlian village near Guangdong's Meizhou city said of Wednesday's clashes.
"A lot of riot police ... and special police came, maybe  or more," said the resident, who gave only his surname Zhu.
"That's when the clashes happened, and two villagers were injured, including an old lady who was taken to hospital with broken ribs," he said. "She was in her sixties."
Zhu said the local farming community was furious that the local government had appropriated more than 100 mu (16 acres) of rice paddy on the pretext of building a new highway, but that when construction work began, workers told the villagers they were building a waste incinerator on their doorstep.
A delegation was sent to confront the village party secretary, but was turned away without a meeting, he added.
Villagers 'didn't even know'
"The entire village and all its residents are against this waste incinerator, and the authorities haven't made a single public announcement about it, so the villagers didn't even know that they were building it," Zhu said.
"Our village party secretary and village chief are all tied up in this together with the county government," Zhu said. "Otherwise, they would never be able to bring polluting industry here."
An official who answered the phone at the Pantian township government, which oversees Xinlian, confirmed the villagers' account of the clashes.
But she denied the government had moved ahead without consulting them.
"We have done a lot of work explaining this project to villagers, many times" she said. "The village delegates said we could go ahead with a waste plant, no problem."
"We also agreed to their proposals."
However, a second Xinlian resident, Zhu Shuxiang, said her husband, who is on the Xinlian village committee, had also opposed the plan.
Polluting drinking water
And a third Xinlian resident surnamed Liu said the construction site for the waste incinerator is just 500 meters from villagers' homes.
"We rely on underground wells for drinking water and to irrigate our crops," Liu said. "Once the waste incinerator begins operation, there will be large quantities of trash concentrated there, and polluted water will run off into the rivers and into the water table," he said.
"Our air and our drinking water will be polluted."
He said Xinlian wasn't the only village that would be affected.
"There are several villages downstream that will also be polluted," Liu said.
Considering alternate locations
An official who answered the phone at the Pantian township government, which oversees Xinlian, confirmed that work on the waste incinerator project had been begun on the orders of the government of Fengshun county, where Xinlian is located.
But the official declined to comment, referring further questions to the county government.
An official who answered the phone at the Fengshun county government offices said the government is now considering alternate locations for the plant, faced with strong opposition from local people.
Asked if any relocation plans would include consultation exercises with local residents, he answered: "I'm not sure. The people in charge of this are out of the office."
An officer who answered the phone at the Pantian police station confirmed that some villagers had been detained on Wednesday.
But he declined to give further details. "You'll have to call the county police department, because this case is being dealt with by [them.]"
However, an employee who answered the phone at the Fengshun county police department declined to comment when contacted by RFA.
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.
Last August, authorities in Guangdong's Puzhai township said they would cancel plans to build a waste-incineration plant there following angry protests and violent clashes between demonstrators and police.
Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese Service and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.