10,000 join protest against Guangzhou refuse incinerator
Demonstrators march to township government offices to voice concern that plan will worsen pollution in leather-goods manufacturing centre
About 10,000 people gathered yesterday in a township under Huadu district, Guangzhou, to demonstrate against plans to build a refuse incinerator in the national hub for leather-goods manufacturing.
The demonstration, approved by Shiling township officials, began at around 3pm at the Qianjin village committee office, with about 3,000 participants.
More people joined as protesters marched along main roads in Shiling to the local government offices. Some witnesses put the total number of protesters at between 8,000 and 20,000, while the organiser said at least 10,000 people showed up.
Nearly 1,000 armed police officers were seen clearing the way for demonstrators, many of whom carried colourful flags and large banners criticising the incinerator plan. The sea of people appeared to stretch about a kilometre along the roads.
"We are all very upset. The incinerator is only 500 metres from my home. I have two children and I don't want them to develop health problems in a few years," said a 33-year-old father of two who grew up in Qianjin, which he said has about 500 residents. "Over half of the world's handbags are made here - Shiling is polluted enough and can't handle an incinerator."
This was the second related protest in Shiling, following one on Saturday that drew only about 100 people. Shiling has about 300,000 residents.
Last week, Huadu officials announced a timetable for the incinerator, after saying late last month that it would be located in Qianjin. The project is expected to be finalised on August 30, with an environmental assessment ready in February, and construction to start in June next year.
"Police didn't hurt anyone today - they were protecting women and the elderly, and keeping things in order," said a 26-year-old Shiling resident.
At least 5,000 flags were passed out for the protest, which peacefully dispersed after reaching the township government offices at around 6pm.
The protest organiser, a 45-year-old Qianjin villager who declined to be named, said the demonstration was discussed with Shiling officials last week. "We will give Shiling officials a few days to address our concerns, but if there is no reply, we will head to Huadu district authorities and eventually the Guangzhou city government," he said.
Last summer, hundreds of residents of Qingyuan and Guangzhou took to the streets to protest against the project even before site details were announced. It was one of the largest protests against government plans to build incinerators in Guangzhou.
By 2015, Guangzhou plans to build five new garbage incinerators, in addition to the existing one in Likeng in Baiyun district.
The Likeng incinerator handles 1,000 tonnes of refuse a day. Most of the rest of the 18,000 tonnes of waste the city produces each day ends up in landfills which, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily, already contained 40 million tonnes last year.