Waste incinerator in Boluo county, Guangdong, China

In September 2014, thousands of residents took to the streets during one weekend to protest against the development of a proposed garbage incinerator in Boluo County, Guangdong. Following the protest, 24 protestors were detained.

In Sept 2014, thousands of residents took to the streets during one weekend to protest against the development of a proposed garbage incinerator in Boluo County, Guangdong [1]. Following the protest, 24 protestors were detained. With its growing population, waste treatment has becoming a serious problem in China, which has been worsened by massive shipments of rubbish from other developed countries. In recent years, the Chinese government has initiated waste-to-energy projects in order to develop renewable sources of energy, many of which have been protested by Chinese residents fearful of their toxic byproducts (ibid). According to the Boluo government, the proposed incinerator will generate power by burning 700 metric tons of waste of day. Its pollution will be kept minimal. However, most Bolou County residents remain skeptical of such promises. “Of course, the government would say it’s safe,” said one of the residents who helped write the public appeal to the New York Times. “But if the river here is polluted, then we’ll all be harmed, and there’s also the problem of air pollution from the dioxins" (ibid). Shortly after the first protest, another street march broke out  in Boluo County. Three residents contacted by telephone said the protest had resumed on Sunday, when people headed for the local government headquarters, despite a police announcement issued through the local media that 24 people had already been detained [2]. The residents spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing fears of arrest: “We strongly urge the government authorities to reconsider the siting of the waste incineration plant." If the plan went ahead, the letter said, there was “the risk of an expanding and deepening conflict" (ibid). Photos posted on popular social media sites showed protesters carrying banners which read: “I love Boluo: down with the incinerator!” and “No incinerator on the banks of the Dongjiang river!” Others held homemade placards saying: “Boluo is my home,” and “The future depends on us all.” A Boluo county resident surnamed Hou said the protest had started peacefully, but then escalated into violence as riot police moved in to clear the area. “The armed police from the local police station blocked our path as we were marching, and there were some army personnel there too,” Hou said. [4]  The protests in the town in Boluo county illustrate the increased concern and anger Chinese residents share over the environmental hazards that such projects inevitably pose. Furthermore, many are frustrated by the lack of public forums for them to voice their concerns, or to influence government decision-making [3]. "I am worried about the impact it may have on the water source," said a local resident who only gave his family name, Chen, for fear of possible government retaliation. "Burning will definitely cause air pollution. We are concerned about the health of our children" (ibid). The second protest was reported by witnesses to be orderly, until police snatched banners from the protesters, dispersed crowds by force and detained some demonstrators [3]. The protesters stated that the government had not only censored media coverage of the protest, but also sought to dissuade those on public payrolls from joining in.
Basic Data
NameWaste incinerator in Boluo county, Guangdong, China
SiteLuoyang town, Boluo
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Waste Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Incinerators
Urban development conflicts
Specific CommoditiesIndustrial waste
General waste
Project Details and Actors
Project Details700 metric tons of waste treated (per day)
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Populationapprox 10,000
Start Date13/09/2014
End Date14/09/2014
Relevant government actorsLuoyang, Boluo county officials, government of Huizhou city
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersBoluo residents, Chinese netizens
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingNeighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of MobilizationMedia based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Fires, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseRepression
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly. The Huizhou Daily, the official newspaper of an area that includes Boluo, quoted a government spokesman who denied that the proposed plant’s site had already been decided and hinted at some leeway in resolving the matter [2].
Sources and Materials

Background to the Boluo case and other cases of opposition to incinerators in China. China Daily. June 6, 2016. The burning question of household waste. By Zheng Jinran
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[1] Thousands march in protest of proposed garbage incineration plant in southern China
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[2] In Southern China, Residents Wary of the Government Protest a Plan to Burn Waste
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[3] Thousands protest against waste incinerator plans in Guangdong town
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Guangdong villagers protest incinerator. By Chen Heying Source:Global Times Published: 2014-9-15
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Media Links

China, Guangdong Province, Boluo Anti-waste incineration, power plant march , 12 Sept. 2009
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Chinese increasingly protest projects that threaten environment, 16 Sept. 2014. By Stuart Leavenworth - McClatchy Foreign Staff.
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RFA, Police Hold 21 After Waste Plant Protest in China's Guangdong, 15 Sept. 2014
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Other Documents

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Meta Information
ContributorEJOLT team at School of Geography and China Centre, University of Oxford
Last update10/11/2016