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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs