The number of major environmental protests in China grew by 120 per cent from 2010 to 2011, according to Yang Chaofei, vice-chairman of the Chinese Society for Environmental Sciences.
Speaking on Friday at a lecture organised by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on the social impact of environmental problems, attended by finance news magazine Caijing, Yang revealed that the number of environmental "mass incidents" has grown an average 29 per cent annually, from 1996 to 2011.
According to Yang, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has handled a total of 927 incidents since 2005, 72 of which were classified as major incidents. He said that incidents involving heavy metal pollution and dangerous chemicals have been on the rise since 2010.
The government stopped releasing most protest statistics several years ago after the annual number of "mass incidents" surpassed 100,000. The latest figure most often cited is from Tsinghua University sociology professor Sun Liping, who estimates there were 180,000 protests and riots in 2010.
The Caijing report references recent information from Xinhua and the Beijing News, the latter of which responded to Yang's claim that only 1 per cent of environmental disputes are resolved in court with an editorial calling for an overhaul of existing environmental law.
Key problems, writes Beijing News, include abuse of protection from environmental lawsuits, and the lack of provisions allowing for lawsuits which seek compensation for environmental damage.
Protests throughout the weekend in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, were successful in stopping plans to expand a local plant producing the toxic chemical paraxylene, or PX. Protests defeated PX plants in Xiamen and Dalian in 2007 and 2011, respectively.
An infographic published by economic news magazine Caixin last week shows there are a total of thirteen PX plants in China, the majority spread along the coastal region.
Articles on previous environmental protests: