Heavy Metal Pollution in Qujing, Yunnan, China

Villagers found out about the toxic waste dumping along water bodies, blocked the company's trucks and forced authorities to act.


In March 2011, a procession of trucks started carting “yellow and black soil” towards the sandy land west of the village. Nobody noticed this “soil” was then being dumped by the roadside. Later calculations put the quantity of abandoned material at 140 loads, or 5,000 tonnes [1]. When the villagers found out about the dumping, they tried to stop the trucks, but to no avail. The drivers started coming at night so as to avoid them, and the dumping continued for more than a month. The locals were worried. Village cadre Yang Yongsheng and other local officials took the matter up with their superiors. The environmental authorities quickly came to inspect the site and told the villagers not to drink the water, or to use it for livestock or irrigation, but did not explain why (ibid).

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Basic Data
NameHeavy Metal Pollution in Qujing, Yunnan, China
SiteYuezhou township, Qujing City
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific CommoditiesChromium
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsLuliang Chemicals was found to have illegally discharged over 5000 tons of chromium-contaminated waste in Qujing, and to have stored 288,400 tons of chromium-contaminated waste in an open storage facility near Nanpanjiang River [1].
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population37 villagers have died of various forms of cancer since 2006
Start Date01/03/2011
Company Names or State EnterprisesYunnan Luliang Chemical Industry Co., Ltd. (Luliang Chemicals) from China - Polluter
Peace Technology from China
Relevant government actorsLu Shaofei, head of monitoring at the Environmental Protection Bureau for the local district of Qilin; Yu Haisheng, deputy head of the Qilin environmental monitoring station; Village cadre Yang Yongsheng and other local officials of Yuezhou (township of Qilin)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersFriends of Nature, Chongqing Green Volunteer Union
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Genetic contamination
Otherdeath of livestock
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Deaths, Other Health impacts
OtherContaining 1% to 2% of calcium chromate (a carcinogen) and 0.5% to 1% of water-soluble hexavalent chromium (a deadly poison), chromium tailings are toxic. [...] Hexavalent chromium is easily absorbed by humans and contact can irritate the skin and damage DNA. It is not easily expelled from the body and, at high dosages, can cause cancer [1].
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood
Othereconomic losses associated with health risks (e.g. use of life-savings for cancer treatment) [3]
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (undecided)
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Experts on environmental law in China regard this case as a landmark and the first environmental public interest lawsuit filed by NGOs in China [2].

On 19 October 2011 the case was accepted by the court, and a local governmental agency, the Qujing Environmental Protection Bureau, who had been a third party, was added to the lawsuit as a plaintiff.

In 2012, the parties entered into mediation presided over by the court, and in December 2012 they reached an agreement. However, on 18 April 2013 the court was informed of the defendants’ refusal to sign the mediation agreement, and the trial process resumed. The proceedings are on-going (ibid).
Sources and Materials

[1] A poisoning exposed
[click to view]

[2] Luliang Chemical Industry & Peace Technology lawsuit (re heavy metal pollution in China)
[click to view]

[3] China's toxic harvest: Growing tainted food in "cancer villages"
[click to view]

[4] Chromium slag contamination in China
[click to view]

Other Documents

Chromium contaminated waste piled up uncontrolled in Qujing Source: http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2011-08/17/content_23226096.htm
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEJOLT team at School of Geography and China Centre, University of Oxford
Last update21/02/2018