Panyu waste incineration project, Guangzhou, China

In 2009, a conflict on a waste incineration plant between local inhabitants and government in Panyu attracted massive attention. The project was moved to Dagang Town, in Nansha District, the whole Xinlian'ercun village will be demolished.

In 2009, the conflict between local inhabitants and government in Panyu attracted massive attention. The cause was a planned waste incineration plant, which was locally regarded as harmful, and a possible source of cancer-causing emissions. The incident is the first time that concerns for the environment gave rise to a national conflict, involving the public, governments, mainstream media and academia. Many scholars consider it a case of NIMBYism, but there were also claims of environmental injustice. The chosen site of refuse incineration plant in Panyu is a residential district with a high population density. More than 300,000 people live there, distributed among six apartment complexes such as Lijiang Garden, Huanan Biguiyuan, Qifu New Village, etc. Coupled with nearby Zhongcun Town and Dashi Town, the whole population ranges between 700,000 and 1,000,000. The Research Centre in Guangdong Province made a survey which was run on Nov 5, among 1550 valid questionnaires, 97.1% opposed the refuse incineration plant. The main reasons for opposing the project included ˜unreasonable planning, densely population around the plant, many tourist spots, would destroy the environment (100%); would generate Dioxins, hard to control with the so called advanced technology (97.9%); ˜the government approve the project without massive local inhabitants participation (94.4%); and because ˜many problems occurr due to refuse incineration plant in China and foreign countries (89.3) Net-citizens strongly advocated for social mobilization on online forums, writing: Please put forward our opinions by actions, it is our right! Any governments can not put us in danger in any time! It is the unity of us that can arouse the public and attract the media and governments` attention. The case of Liulitun project in Beijing and PX project in Xiamen are good examples, which are the efforts of deputy in Peoples Congress and Peoples Political Consultative Conference, and relative scholars; it`s the result of honest media and reporters. Thus, we hereby call on the united strength of local habitants and friends to fight against the project! Under heavy public pressure, the local government changed their position. On Dec 20, 2009, Yinghua Tan, the secretary of Panyu District, organized an informal discussion for three hours with inhabitants living in Lijiang Garden. During this meeting, he announced suspension of the project, and a future evaluation that would begin two years later. According to his statement, approval of the project would be conditioned to a 75% acceptance rate among the local population.  According to [1], "with the Guangzhou Asian Games approaching in late 2010, governmental authorities in Guangdong Province tightened social control, and anti-incinerator activism in Panyu almost came to a standstill. At that time, Friends of Nature, joined by other Beijing-based groups such as the Green Beagle Environmental Institute and the Nature University, stepped up their support for Panyu activists. After months of mentorship and grooming, Basuo Fengyun (a blog name), one of the most active participants in the earlier petitions and protests, eventually became the public face of the Panyu group. Basuo Fengyun and his followers soon redirected their focus onto a new round of governmental decision making for the siting of the pending incinerator that was no longer related to Panyu district. In 2011, he won the prestigious SEE-TNC Ecological Award, which provided necessary financial resources, moral endorsement, and peer support to continue advocacy for alternative waste treatment methods. Basuo Fengyun and fellow activists finally came to realize that public participation in the siting of an incinerator and establishing sustainable waste treatment facilities in China still had a long way to go and that it would be im possible for them to monitor governmental decisions on a regular basis and be part of future policy making without a formal organizational structure. Thus, in the spring of 2012 they formed an NGO and named it Eco Canton (Yiju Guangzhou)."               The Panyu district government announced that it would delay the project until December of 2012 to allow for an environmental assessment that involves public participation. According to Su Zequn, the Executive Vice Mayor of Guangzhou, “The government will abide by the openness and transparency principle in choosing the location of the incinerator [...] We promise the project will not be started if it fails to pass environmental assessment or if it is op- posed by the majority of residents.” The government also planned a consultation process with the public, the media, and experts for six months to look for a better way to treat household garbage and started a pilot programme in waste classification [1]. The government said the new site would be chosen after a process of negotiation. In 2012 it was reported [2] that three years after the massive protests, authorities have invited tenders to build the plant in a different part of the district. South China News reported that "According to an urban solid-waste-management plan for 2010 to 2020, the district government has proposed that the waste incinerator be operating by 2014 in Dagang town, at the southern end of Panyu. The plant was originally planned for the northern end of the district. Two other towns - Dongchong and Dashi - were listed as backup options.
Basic Data
NamePanyu waste incineration project, Guangzhou, China
ProvinceGuangdong Province
SitePanyu District, Guangzhou City
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Waste Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Incinerators
Specific CommoditiesDomestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
More than 300,000 people live there, distributed among six apartment buildings. Coupled with nearby Zhongcun Town and Dashi Town, the whole population ranges between 700,000 and 1,000,000.
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Project Area (in hectares)5.3
Level of Investment (in USD)150,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Populationmore than 300,000 people
Start Date01/09/2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesPanyu waste incineration plant from China
Relevant government actorsPanyu District Government, Guangzhou City Government

Urban Landscape Planning Bureau
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters-Friends of Nature

-Green Beagle Environmental Institute

-Nature University

-Eco Canton (Yiju Guangzhou)

-Global Alliance for Incineration Alternative GAIA

-Zero Waste Alliance
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Displaying banners in buildings.
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Groundwater pollution or depletion, Noise pollution, Other Environmental impacts, Air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Deaths
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseNew Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
The project was moved to Dagang Town, in the new Nansha District, the whole Xinlian'ercun village will be demolished. New EIA reported in Nov, 2012 to start the project in an alternative place.
Development of AlternativesAlternative plan with public participation, waste classification
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly. It was temporary stopped, while the waste is continuously increasing, waste incinerators are the most possible choice for the local government, so they found another place for the construction, even if is not economically efficient as their prioritized one.
Sources and Materials

Interim Measures for Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment


Boundary-Spanning Contention: The Panyu Anti-Pollution [1] Protest in Guangdong, China. Katherine Zhao University of Chicago
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A refuse incineration plant build in Panyu, 300 thousands inhabitants in extreme worries, New Express, Sep 24, 2009

[1]In the Name of the Public: Environmental Protest and the Changing Landscape of Popular Contention in China, by H. Christoph Steinhardt and Fengshi Wu
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Chinese online community:
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Chinese Newspapers:
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Chinese Newspapers:
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Chinese Newspapers:
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Chinese Newspapers:
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[2] South China Morning Post. Panyu presses on with incinerator plans
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Chinese protesters confront police over incinerator plans in Guangzhou. Residents say government is lying over health dangers as Chinese protesters gain confidence and support
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广州垃圾焚烧发电厂终定址 选址时反复被抵制
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Media Links

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Other Documents

4. Cartoon: Hands moving out the waste incinerators, everybody is saying No! No! No!
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1. On the white paper, Not able to meet the leaders, we were represented by others!
On the green banner: No waste incineration, protest green Guangzhou! No waste incineration, protect green Panyu!
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2. No waste incineration, protect green Panyu!
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3. Cartoon satires the experts who support waste incineration.
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Other CommentsSource on the EIA. (EIA)
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Last update23/05/2017