Controversial incinerator project on hold

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 December, 2009, 12:00am

Construction of a waste incinerator that prompted a large protest by residents of Guangzhou's Panyu district will be delayed until after next year's Asian Games.

Under a new plan by district authorities, a waste disposal project will go ahead but the site will be 'reselected' and construction will start in January 2011 at the earliest.

Tan Yinghua , the district's party secretary, said it was not the right time to make a final decision on what type of disposal facility would be built. No matter what method was used, there would have to be scientific proof it was not harmful to the environment, Tan was quoted by the Southern Metropolis News as saying yesterday.

Before making a final decision, Panyu authorities will launch schemes aimed at improving the environment and appeasing residents. Two communities and a school will start a trial scheme to sort rubbish into categories. This will gradually be extended to the whole district. A six-month public consultation process will allow residents to discuss waste disposal methods.

The incinerator at a former landfill in Huijiang village was supposed to handle 2,000 tonnes of rubbish a day.

Ye Wen, deputy director of the Panyu Bureau of Urban Utilities and Landscaping, said the 2.5 million population created 600,000 tonnes of rubbish a year, Xinhua reported.

Residents near Huijiang village have repeatedly called for the incinerator to be moved to an unpopulated area or scrapped. They cited the example of Guangzhou's Likeng village, where cancer rates soared after an incinerator was built in 2005.

Anger boiled over late last month when more than 500 people took to the streets.

Guangzhou-based blogger Beifeng said the delay was probably due to the Asian Games, which will be held in November next year. 'The local government does not want small issues triggering unrest during such a big event,' he said.

He also suggested the provincial government may have put pressure on Guangzhou to cancel the incinerator, citing the example of the petrochemical plant scheduled for Nansha that was eventually moved to Zhanjiang .

Lian Yue, a Twitter user based in Xiamen , said Panyu's case was a good example for the public, and officials, to follow.

Lian, who played a key role in a protest in Xiamen against construction of a huge chemical plant, said governments could learn that by listening to the public and making the policy-making process open, they could settle problems peacefully. 'It can be a win-win solution,' he said.

Both Beifeng and Lian said the role of the media was crucial.

Local and national newspapers began following the case as early as November, making the issue of waste incinerators an important one.

Some Panyu residents are concerned that the plans will simply be dusted off and resumed after the Asian Games.

'It is good to hear that it was delayed,' said one resident who took part in the protest and did not want to be named. 'But it is not a complete victory because the possibility of building the incinerator is still there.'

There have been protests against incinerators in Beijing and Shenzhen. There are nearly 100 incinerators nationwide, the Southern Weekend reported.