Xinhua News Agency

Building starts on new homes for lead-poisoned villagers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 June, 2015, 4:12pm

Authorities in Shaanxi have started to build new housing for residents of Fengxiang county whose homes became uninhabitable due to pollution from a nearby smelter. But the move has done little to soothe their anger.

More than 850 children were diagnosed with lead poisoning caused by the factory. Residents said the compensation offered by authorities in conjunction with the relocation scheme was well short of what they demanded.

Xinhua reported that the housing scheme would accommodate 1,396 households living within one kilometre of the lead and iron smelter in Changqing town. It would cost 180 million yuan (HK$205 million). The report said the government was 'making headway' in reaching resettlement deals with villagers, but it gave no details.

Yang Yagu, who lived next to the plant and used to work there, said he had not been notified of the start of construction. Nor had he reached agreement about moving out of his present home.

'They might have moved into high gear but it doesn't mean anything to us now. There are still a lot of problems to be sorted out.'

The most pressing issue is the size of relocation subsidies. The government has offered 500 to 600 yuan per square metre for each affected household.

'We asked for 900 yuan per square metre,' said Wang Yinke , another resident. 'We need the money for decoration, finding new jobs and other costs. In my own case, the gap means a 30,000 yuan shortfall.'

But both Wang and Yang ruled out any immediate bargaining because of the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic on October 1.

Wang said: 'The officials have applied some heavy-handed measures to bully us, so we don't want to make any reckless moves at this time. Particularly because of the anniversary, we definitely want to play safe and seek a solution after the whole National Day fever ends. Otherwise we risk being accused of subversion.'

The government has initiated a massive security operation and smothered dissent in recent weeks to ensure nothing can spoil the milestone celebration.