Farmers forced to breed fish in a dam that had deprived them of the majority of their lands have won more than 5.6 million yuan (HK$5.2 million) in damages after toxic discharges from state-owned factories killed their stocks. The villagers had earlier taken out their frustrations by dumping two tonnes of dead fish on the steps of their city hall in Jiangsu province, reports said. The Lianyungang Intermediate People's Court last week ordered the Shandong provincial government-owned Jinyimeng Paper Factory and Linshu Chemical Factory to pay the damages to 97 aquatic farmers for toxic waste that killed their fish, the Yangzi Evening News reported. A local supervisory division of the Ministry of Agriculture reportedly confirmed in court that on September 11, 1999, untreated waste water emitted from the two factories killed all shrimp and carp in the reservoir, causing 2.9 million yuan losses to the farmers. 'Constructing the reservoir reduced the arable land in Shilianghe village from 573.3 hectares to only 56.7 hectares,' village party secretary Sun Yishan told the China Youth Daily. 'Therefore, everyone in the area could only farm fish to earn a living.' The report said the villagers, who had to adjust to a new livelihood after the loss of their lands, were dealt a blow when a first discharge of pollutants poisoned their fish. The disaster left them with no income to pay for their children's education, medical care and living expenses, it said. The farmers were forced to start from scratch several months later. But their efforts in raising new stocks of fish were wiped out when another toxic spill from the same factories killed all stocks on June 28 last year, causing a further 2.7 million yuan in losses. State Environmental Protection Agency staff reportedly confirmed in court that after the discharges, the Shilianghe Reservoir turned dark and began to stink. An official from the Lianyungang City Environmental Protection Bureau said that although the two enterprises had been dumping industrial waste into the reservoir all along, a secondary dam built in late 1999 to control the flow of water had made the problem worse. 'Before we built the secondary dam, the influence of the pollution was far less. We never thought that afterwards, the force of the water combined with a large amount of pollution could instantly destroy the reservoir,' the official said. The court reportedly found that the companies periodically dumped waste water into the reservoir to save on the 7.5 million yuan it would cost them annually to send the waste to a nearby treatment plant. According to the China Youth Daily, complaints from the farmers were met with indifference from government authorities. They sought to prove their point about the effects of the pollution by dumping the dead fish outside the Linshu county Government offices in July last year. As well as being awarded 5.6 million yuan, the farmers were also compensated for 48,000 yuan they spent paying environmental surveyors to investigate the case. Neither the Jinyimeng Paper Factory nor the Linshu Chemical Factory, which are reportedly planning to appeal, were available for comment.