Cement factory around Madang Township, Gansu province, China

The pollution damaged a White Pagoda, livelihood and farming. The villagers protested by petitions or pacific protests; but the authorities responded by violence.


Description
In the 1985, in the district of the city Madang Township, collocated in Gansu province the cement factory Xiahe Amdo Cement Co. was built; it employes around 600 people. It opened as a state-owned enterprise, but it was privatized in 1998 and it has since then become one of Gansu's major cement makers. In the area most of the people have lived for generations upon generations within Yaxiu Village in Madang Township relying upon tilling fields and grazing livestock for maintaining their livelihood. Ever since the Cement Factory began operations, the previous tranquility of life on the farm has been completely broken by modernization. For over a thousand of villagers, this has brought with it enormous harm: the pollution is getting worse and worse; in summer, many local women have to work in the field wearing masks over their noses and mouths. Even wheat in the field is covered with ash, looking grey rather than green [1]. During the cement factory’s expansion in 2009, the company forcibly occupied a site where local people usually carry out religious activities – Mani Stack. The large-tonnage trucks going to and from the cement factory have not only damaged the road – the White Pagoda [Mani Stack] is built next to a farming road – the White Pagoda itself now leans and is cracked. The villagers have twice spent money to carry out repairs, but in the end they couldn’t keep up with the amount of damage being caused by the cement factory; and now, because of the extent of the damage, no one dares to go into the White Pagoda for religious activities. Due to the discharge of large amounts of dust and pollutants, harvests at the farms dropped sharply (the most serious drop was over 60%); and because grazing on the slopes was seriously polluted, not only was the rate of growth severely slowed, more importantly, cattle and sheep would no longer graze on the polluted grass slopes. The pastures have become “ash grass” forcing villagers to go ever farther to search for grazing and even to buy in grass fodder because the natural pastures have lost their function of supporting livestock [2]. Tibetans have benefited very little from the factory, and the water in some villages has dried up, damaging farming and livestock. Villagers have petitioned for years, to the county and other government offices, but to no resolution. The authorities either pressure or detain the petitioners and lock them up in unknown places. According to the International Campaign for Tibet, on May 13, 2010 villagers had attempted to resolve the issue of pollution by the factory peacefully by submitting a petition to the authorities demanding greater pollution controls and it also called on the factory to withdraw from a religious site and an old road that it forcibly occupied. [6] One major point of contention was the damage done to a white pagoda—cherished by Tibetan Buddhists—by factory trucks carrying excavated stones. The factory, was expanding and digging out tunnels. [1] The petition states as well: “The cows and sheep no longer eat the grass growing on contaminated slopes, forcing us to buy pasturage somewhere else. Our natural pasture has lost its function to feed the livestock. This has significantly affected our life" [4]. Villagers have filed petitions to the local authorities. Tension ran high after villagers, on May 15, 2010, went to the gate of the factory to protest, without receive any attention from the authorities and therefore the citizens started to rebuild a road leading to Yarshul (Ch: Yaxiu) village which had been made inaccessible by a road blockade by the Chinese authorities to expand the factory.  Staff from the cement factory, cadres from Madang Township and police officers warned them to stop the road construction. The deputy governor of the county asked the Tibetans to withdraw from the site threatening them with action if they did not allow the factory’s vehicles to pass. The Tibetans were given 15 minutes to clear the area and even they did move back from the road, according to a source, the police still opened fire [5]. No one was killed, but according to the same source at least two Tibetans were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, one apparently injured in the leg. Others were allegedly beaten up by police. Tibetans in Markham have renewed protests against mining operations on mountains they consider sacred, despite strong presence of armed Chinese police. Markham was the site of vehement protests last year against mining on a mountain called Ser Ngul Lo. [5]
Basic Data
NameCement factory around Madang Township, Gansu province, China
CountryChina
Province Xiahe county in Gansu province, Kanlho“Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture”(‘TAP’), the Tibetan area of Amdo.
SiteYa Xiu village, Madang Township, Xiahe county
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific CommoditiesCement
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAmdo Cement Factory has around 600 employees. It opened as a state-owned enterprise, but privatized in 1998 and it has since become one of Gansu's major cement makers. During production, dozens of large-tonnage trucks arrive with raw materials and leave with cement goods, operating 24-hours a day at times and seriously damaging farming roads[5].
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date15/05/2010
Company Names or State Enterprises Xiahe Amdo Cement Co. from China
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersStudents for a free tibet: http://blog.studentsforafreetibet.org/take-action-chinese-police-open-fire-on-tibetans-over-cement-factory-protest/;

Save the Tibet: https://www.savetibet.org;

Canada Tibet Committee: http://tibet.ca/en/library/wtn/9194
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Pastoralists
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Villagers started to rebuild a road that was earlier blocked for the factory’s expansion. According to exile Tibetans with contact in the area, the Tibetans in Madang were preparing to rebuild a road leading to Yarshul (Ch: Yaxiu) village which had been made inaccessible by a road blockade by the Chinese authorities to expand the factory [5].
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
OtherDue to the wanton discharge of large amounts of dust and pollutants, harvests at the farms of we villagers living in the areas surrounding the cement factory dropped sharply (the most serious drop was over 60%); and because grazing on the slopes was seriously polluted, not only was the rate of growth severely slowed, more importantly, cattle and sheep would no longer graze on the polluted grass slopes [2]
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Land dispossession, Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseRepression
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The villagers in order to protect the natural environment where they live, they reported the illegal actions of the cement factory to the relevant environmental departments, and to central news and media departments and ministries awaiting an ultimate resolution[2]. It's a good outcome for the environmental justice and for the visibility to international level. In fact many articles and blogger spoke about this episode, trying to send a complain letter to the authorities[6]. But of course in front of indifference and possible corruption of the authorities, it is difficult to get environmental safety and the respect of rights.
Sources and Materials
References

Green Tibet, Annual Newsletter 2011, Environment and Development Desk
[click to view]

Britain based Tibet Watch, “Environmental Protest on the Tibetan plateau”, January 2015
[click to view]

Links

GANSU XIAHE AMDO CEMENT CO LTD
[click to view]

 [1] Radio Free Asia, Clash Over Cement Factory, May 18, 2010
[click to view]

 [2] Save the Tibet, Police open fire at Tibetans protesting cement factory pollution, May 17, 2010
[click to view]

[3] World Tibet Network News, 2. Police open fire at Tibetans protesting cement factory pollution, The Canada Tibet Committee, May 21, 2010
[click to view]

[4] Asianews, Gansu: police fires on Tibetan protesters, 15 wounded and four arrested, May 19, 2010
[click to view]

Canada Tibet Committee, TIBET - CHINA Gansu: police fires on Tibetan protesters, 15 wounded and four arrested, May 23, 2010
[click to view]

[6]Nick Gulotta ,TAKE ACTION: CHINESE POLICE OPEN FIRE ON TIBETANS OVER CEMENT FACTORY PROTEST , Tibet will be free. The official blog of SFT, May 20, 2010
[click to view]

[5] Kalsang Rinchen, 15 Tibetans wounded as Chinese police open fire in Labrang, May 18 2010
[click to view]

Other Documents

Radio Free Asia, Clash Over Cement Factory, May 18, 2010 http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/factory-05182010124136.html In a photo submitted by a local resident, police confront Tibetans on a road in Yarshul village, May 15, 2010. Credit: Local resident
[click to view]

 [1] Radio Free Asia, Clash Over Cement Factory, May 18, 2010
http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/factory-05182010124136.html
[click to view]

[2] Save the Tibet, Police open fire at Tibetans protesting cement factory pollution, May 17, 2010 https://www.savetibet.org/police-open-fire-at-tibetans-protesting-cement-factory-pollution/ The cement factory in Madang Township, Labrang (Chinese: Xiahe) county in Gansu province, which local Tibetans say is polluting the local environment. - See more at: https://www.savetibet.org/police-open-fire-at-tibetans-protesting-cement-factory-pollution/#sthash.X7SpR1qp.dpuf
[click to view]

 [2] Save the Tibet, Police open fire at Tibetans protesting cement factory pollution, May 17, 2010 https://www.savetibet.org/police-open-fire-at-tibetans-protesting-cement-factory-pollution/ Armed police in riot gear massing outside the cement factory in Madang Township.
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorMyriam Bartolucci, EJAtlas internship researcher, myriam.bartolucci@gmail.com
Last update11/04/2017
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