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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
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.

AppleAndroid