Thousands Protest Trash Incinerators in Southern China

October 26, 2009 Updated: October 26, 2009

Tens of thousands of residents of Pingwang Town in China's southern Jiangsu Province protested against garbage incinerators being built too close to where they live on Oct. 21. Local authorities sent 3,000 anti-riot police to disperse the crowd.

The incinerators, owned by the Wujiang Trash Incinerator Company, are only 0.6 miles away from Pingwang Town and 160 feet away from the closest residential area. There are daycare centers, elementary and junior high schools within a radius of 0.6 miles, with the nearest daycare center only 0.3 miles from the plant.

The plant was planning to start operations on Oct. 21. Worried about the environmental pollution and associated health problems, local residents took to the streets to protest on the same day.

During its trial run on Oct. 19 the plant had already emitted stench and smoke across Pingwang town, according to local residents.

The local newspaper Yangtse Evening News, which is run by the state, published a notice from local officials on Oct. 22 saying that due to public concerns the plant was being shut down. The piece also mentioned that the plant actually conformed to the relevant environmental guideline of “Daily Trash Burning Standards.” The official notice did not mention any protests.

A local resident contacted by The Epoch Times by telephone, identifying himself only as Xu, said "Since 8 a.m. on Oct. 21, thousands of people started gathering at the plant entrance and then moved to the State Road 318. Three-thousand police were dispatched on Oct. 22 with batons in hand. The police beat many people in front of the Pingwang Police Station the night of Oct. 22. The police used the batons to hit people who had nothing to defend themselves."

The local residents said the government did not solicit their opinions before building the plant.

Another resident contacted by The Epoch Times, a woman named Chu, said, "I am certainly against the plant. My house is just three miles away from it. The pollution is pretty bad and harmful to our health. The smoke from burning trash contains toxic substances that can cause cancer. The government did not seek public comments before they decided to build the plant. There were a lot of people protesting when the plant was being constructed."

"The local government officials all live in Wujiang City. They don't care about our lives at all. They started soliciting our opinions only seven days before the plant started operation," Chu said.

Residents said they don’t think local officials will actually terminate the plant's operation.

Mr. Xu said, "The government said the plant was approved by the Committee of the Political Consultative Conference, the People's Congress and the local residents’ representatives. I don't believe the residents’ representatives would approve this. We should let people vote by secret ballot. Under notary supervision and live broadcasting, we will see how many will be in favor of the plant and how many will be against it. We need to listen to the people's voice on this issue."

Similar mass protests against trash incineration plants have occurred in Beijing, Nanjing, Guangzhou and other cites as a result of health problems.

Incinerators play the most important role in emissions of dioxin which can cause serious health problems such as cancer. They are build to different standards across the country, and while for years official regulators have talked about tighter limits on emissions, concrete steps have been few.

A 2005 report from the World Bank warned that if China built incinerators rapidly and did not limit their emissions, worldwide atmospheric levels of dioxin could double.

Chinese environmental experts also point out that China's current environmental pollution is grave; communities with many landfills and incinerators are high-risk areas for health issues.

Read the original Chinese article.