Shangba Village Cadmium and Lead Pollution in Wengyuan, Guangdong, China

As early as the 1970s, Shangba villagers were already aware that pollution was affecting the village. As pollution worsened cancer deaths rose. In 2005 villagers eventually secured a 14 million Yuan reservoir funded by the government.


Shangba Village in Wongyuan County, Guangdong Province used to be known as an area rich in rice and fish. However, more and more people, horrified by the strike of cancer, are fleeing the village (1). From 1986 to 2005, 214 people died of cancer in the village, which equates to double the average cancer incidence in rural China (112.57 per year in 100 thousand) (2). Most of the victims were families’ bread winners, leaving their parents and children deeply distressed about the cancer (3).

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Basic Data
NameShangba Village Cadmium and Lead Pollution in Wengyuan, Guangdong, China
ProvinceGuangdong Province
SiteXinjiang Township, Wengyuan County, Shaoguan 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)Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific CommoditiesCopper
Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population3,400
Start Date01/01/1980
Company Names or State EnterprisesGuangdong Dabaoshan Mining Corporation (广东省大宝山矿业有限公司) from China
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills, Waste overflow
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Shangba’s environmental issues have obtained high-level attention from the science field of Guangdong province. At the moment, teams from both South China Agricultural University (SCAU) and Guangdong Institute of Eco-environment and Soil Science have set up projects in Shangba, working on restoration of soil and the Mine’s soil and water conservation function. One of the projects, led by Professor LIN Chuxia from SCAU, has secured a governmental funding of 400,000 Yuan as a major special project selected by the Guangdong Provincial Department of Science and Technology. There is a potential for Shangba to become the first planting base of energy plants. (3) A 120 million Yuan sewage treatment plant will be completed in December 2015. Its daily treatment rate will be increased to 60,000 cubic metres. This hopefully will thoroughly solve the problem of the polluted downstream water quality. (8)
Sources and Materials

1. 广东上坝村水污染严重 癌症14年夺命210条
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3. 广东最著名的癌症村——上坝村的拯救与希望
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4. A. Chen et al. (2007) 'Well water contaminated by acidic mine water from the Dabaoshan Mine, South China: Chemistry and toxicity', Chemosphere 70: 248-225.
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6. 脊梁 ——记广东省十届人大代表沈演泉
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7. Zhuang et al., (2009) 'Health risk from heavy metals via consumption of food crops in the vicinity of Dabaoshan mine, South China', Science of the Total Environment 407: 1551–1561.
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2. Lora-Wainwright, Anna (no date) ‘Living with pollution: resigned activism, wellbeing and the “good life” in rural China,’ in Living with pollution: resigned activism, wellbeing and the “good life” in rural China.   Unpublished manuscript.

5. Cases of Citizens Defending Environmental Rights: “Cancer village” residents petition for clean water
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8. 上坝有望告别“癌症村”
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China's 'cancer villages' pay price
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China's "cancer villages" bear witness to economic boom
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A Village of Death and Its Hopes for the Future
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Made in China: Cancer Villages
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Media Links

韶关上坝村回访 矿山污染形成血红色水库
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Other Documents

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Meta Information
ContributorChina environment and welfare research group, university of Oxford
Last update26/02/2019