News / Asia

Chinese Incinerators Spark Public Protests

Protests against incinerators have taken place in China over the past few years. This 2009 protest was against a planned large garbage incinerator in Guangzhou, Guangdong.
Protests against incinerators have taken place in China over the past few years. This 2009 protest was against a planned large garbage incinerator in Guangzhou, Guangdong.
VOA News
Environmental protests have replaced land grabs as the main source of unrest in parts of the country, according to Chinese officials.

Grassroots campaigners in China are increasingly using official channels to push for more transparency when it comes to the environment.

Thomas Johnson, a researcher specializing in Chinese environmental policy at the City University of Hong Kong, says one example of this ongoing struggle is a waste incinerator near the coastal city of Qinhuangdao, in China's northern province of Hebei.
 
“This incinerator was half-built before it was halted by the government after opposition from the local people,” Johnson said. “I went there last year and you can see in the middle of the field there is this half-finished incinerator, with a couple of guards watching it and growing vegetables within the compound."

As a growing number of residents and nongovernmental organizations question the environmental impact of large-scale projects, such starts and stops are becoming more common.

Waste incineration has long been a controversial issue in many countries, with opponents focusing on pollution's impact on public health.
 
How much dioxin
 
China's limits on pollution by industrial plants are weaker than those of many other nations, and incinerators can release 10 times as much dioxin as similar plants in the European Union. Dioxin and related compounds are highly toxic and are linked to cancer and birth defects in people exposed to high levels of contamination.

China already generates one-quarter of the world's total waste, and that amount increases by eight percent every year.

City governments are under great pressure to solve their mounting trash problems, and incineration is an increasingly popular choice. The central government aims to have 300 trash-burning plants in operation by 2015 - twice as many as now. But opposition from local communities has halted work on many plants, at least temporarily.

“Even if they encounter opposition, it is unlikely that local governments or construction companies will say clearly that they will not build the incinerators,” said Mao Da, a researcher at Beijing Normal University who studies solid-waste treatment techniques. “Between the developers' attitude and citizens' persistent opposition, we sometimes realize that the chance of completing some of these plants is very low."

Mao says the Chinese public does not trust the government to enforce technology and safety standards for incinerators, and there is growing concern about the potentially grave risk posed by increasing airborne concentrations of dioxin and other poisons.
 
Gas-mask protests


Opposition to incinerators takes various forms. In Guanxi, signs deploring "smelly" conditions hang from high-rise apartment windows while protesters in Guangzhou ride the subway wearing gas masks.

Apart from environmental concerns, Johnson says government agencies' lack of coordination also is a source of trouble.

“One part of the government approves an incinerator in a certain place," Johnson said, "and another part says, 'Let's develop this area for middle-class housing.'”

By the time people move into their new homes, Johnson says, too often they discover an incinerator will soon be built nearby.

“In some cases, the house has been marketed to them as being in a very 'green' area - clean air - and they are suddenly very upset that they found this incinerator at their doorstep."

Chinese law mandates that authorities study an incinerator's impact before it is built. Guidelines for placement of waste-treatment plants must be observed, and there must be consultation with people living near the site.
 
Bending the rules?

However, NGOs say environmental departments often bend the rules.

In the case of the half-built Qinhuangdao waste incinerator, the impact assessment reported that 100 people were surveyed, and there was unanimous agreement on the project.

Members of the group Friends of Nature checked with the residents named in the official survey, however, and found that none of them had ever heard about the questionnaire.

Waste processors and government officials charged with protecting the environment also have recently come under scrutiny for their reluctance to disclose emissions data.

The environmental group Wuhu Ecology Center asked 122 plants that burn trash to provide information about pollution discharges more than two years ago. As of last month, there was no response from a majority of the plants.

“What we asked for is information that they are bound by law to make public, and yet they have not complied so far,” said Ding Jie, a volunteer at the Wuhu Ecology Center.

She says such unwillingness to disclose information is harming the public, which should be aware of the health risks for those who live near incinerators.

As consumer consumption rises in urban areas and more goods and garbage pile up, most observers agree that solving China's trash problem will not be easy. But many believe that transparency could go a long way toward easing popular opposition to incinerators, and help restore the public's trust in government.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid