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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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 Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More