Chinese Waste Site 'Canceled' After Angry Protest in Guangdong


2013.11.26
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Villagers protesting against the construction of a landfill and waste disposal plant in Jingzhenyuan township near Guangdong's Jieyang city, Nov. 25, 2013.
Photo courtesy of Meide villagers.

Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong said they would cancel plans to build a landfill and waste disposal plant following a mass demonstration by angry villagers, after work began with no warning on the site, residents said on Tuesday.

Construction of the plant in Jingzhenyuan township near Guangdong's Jieyang city came to a halt after hundreds of protesters from nearby Meide village marched to local government offices on Monday.

"Protect the villagers' rights, show responsibility!" read one banner shown in photos of the event posted to popular social media sites.

"Those who harm the interests of Meide village shouldn't hold office!" another read.

A resident of Meide who asked to remain anonymous said villagers were angry because they hadn't been informed that work would begin on the project earlier this month.

"Work already began, but it's not complete yet," he said. "The villagers didn't know about it [before Monday]."

He said local officials had promised that no waste disposal plant would be built in Meide.

"They guaranteed that they wouldn't build this waste processing site in Meide," he added.

'Halted temporarily'

An official who answered the phone at the Jingzhenyuan township government offices on Tuesday confirmed that work had halted on the site.

"Work has halted temporarily," the official said, but declined to comment further.

"Our leaders aren't here right now, and you should come here yourself if you want to conduct interviews," the official said.

Meanwhile, an official who answered the phone at the Meide village ruling Chinese Communist Party committee offices said that the project had halted for good.

"After the township government held talks with us, they decided not to build it here, for fear it would have a negative impact on the environment in our village and on the health of the villagers," he said.

A second resident of Jingzhenyuan surnamed Chen said the site had been planned as a sorting and disposal site to dispose of garbage from the entire township.

"It would be a bit more scientific if they were to build it on the edge of the mountains, where there aren't so many people," Chen said.

"There are fish-farms and orchards right next to where they are building it."

He said Meide hadn't been the first choice of local officials.

"The government has selected quite a few places already, but the local people all refused [to go along with it]," he said. "Once the villagers held talks with officials, they couldn't push it through."

Health

A second Meide resident surnamed Wang said the villagers were determined to prevent the plant from being built on their doorstep.

"The waste disposal plant would harm our health, and we will fight it to the last," Wang said.

"The villagers are worried that it will pollute...our source of drinking water, and give them cancer and other problems," she added.

And a third Meide resident surnamed Zhang said that the landfill part of the project would likely cause problems for local people in years to come.

"It will make the village dirty after they are done burying the trash, and it will cause a stink, and spoil the surrounding area," Zhang said. "There are a lot of people and children living around here, and they would be seriously affected."

"They can't be allowed to build it," she said.

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

Criticism

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

Last July, Guangdong authorities 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, where a 30,000-strong protest led to bloody clashes with the police.

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 Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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