Thousands of local residents protested in the city of Shunde in southern China’s Guangdong Province on Tuesday, demanding authorities drop plans to build a hazardous industrial waste processing facility.
The proposed Green Industry Service Center facility is projected to handle 400 tons of waste a day, and be located in a part of the city that houses 15,000 residents, organizers said. Shunde has a total population of 1.22 million.
Among the concerns voiced by residents is that the low-lying facility poses a danger to local drinking water and fish farms, the nearest of which only about 1.5 km (1 mile) away.
Local residents also worry about processing industrial waste is only about 500 meters away from the closest resident.
An earlier protest by hundreds of residents angered by the government’s short public notification period was suppressed by police, the residents said.
“We all know about this (waste facility plan). Most of us oppose the plan. This is chemical waste. Personally, I’m strongly against it,” an elderly villager surnamed Mai in Mai Village told RFA’s Cantonese Service.
“Exposure to these chemicals is harmful to our health. To my generation, (the harm) is not a big deal but to our future generations, it’s a big issue, isn’t it?” he added.
A clerk from Shunde District Green Industry Service Center told RFA on Wednesday, a day after the big rally that the center was the main contractor building the facility, but that whether to go ahead remained undecided, pending an environmental assessment and other studies.
“Our first phase is to do a survey and collect feedback from the public. We haven’t gone far enough yet to determine whether we will take on the project,” said the clerk.
“The preliminary stage has just started. It doesn’t mean that what we have announced to the public is a firm plan,” added the clerk.
“We’ll collect public opinion and suggestions, then we’ll report the feedback to the environmental offices and consulting firms. Let them give us a further assessment on environment and public health,” said the clerk.
Previous attempts to build similar plants elsewhere in the province have drawn widespread criticism and protests.
More than 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 classes and farming communities alike.
Reported by RFA’s Cantonese Service Translated by Karen Zhang and Zhao Xing. Written in English by Paul Eckert.