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Yongxing Cancer Village near Likeng Landfill and Incinerators in Guangdong Province, China

Villagers have been fighting in an endless vicious circle – protest and failure – against the construction of incinerators and a waste treatment plant in Likeng, Guangdong Province.


Likeng, approximately 23 kilometres away from Guangzhou’s city centre, was once the site of a small reservoir near Yongxing village. Twenty years ago, vast fields were irrigated with clear water coming down from hills and planted with rice, vegetables and fruits. However, in 1991 the reservoir was replaced by a landfill, which was followed by two incinerators constructed nearby. (1) Earlier in 2015, a comprehensive waste treatment plant completed bidding and is now undergoing its environmental impact assessment. (2) Having failed to stop these projects, Yongxing Village has entered the category of a cancer village.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Yongxing Cancer Village near Likeng Landfill and Incinerators in Guangdong Province, China
State or province:Guangdong Province
Location of conflict:Guangzhou
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The two incinerators combined burn 3000 tons of rubbish on a daily basis and generate 130 million kilowatt hours of power every year.

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:01/01/1989
Company names or state enterprises:Guangzhou Likeng Domestic Waste Incineration Power Plant (Phase I and II)(广州市李坑生活垃圾焚烧发电厂一厂、二厂) from China
Veolia Environment from France - Veolia operates 24 waste management projects in China, covering hazardous waste, landfill sites, landfill gas-to-energy, waste-to-energy and recycling. According to the company: "In 2007, Veolia’s Jiangqiao (Shanghai) and Likeng (Guangzhou) Waste-to-Energy plants received the ranking of no.1 and no.5 among the top ten Waste-to-Energy plants, according to the United Nations and China’s National Development and Reform Commission." (
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Environmental Protection
Guangzhou Urban Management Bureau
Guangzhou Health Bureau
Guangzhou Centre for Disease Control
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Likeng village authorities
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Property damage/arson
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Deaths, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsAlleged emission of dioxins and furans leading to cancer
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Continuing debate on the health risks of incineration
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Despite of various forms of efforts, including riots, protests, petitions, Yongxing villagers failed to stop any of the waste treatment projects in Likeng. In 2007 the Ministry of Environmental Protection listed their concerns on air and water sources in the Notice of Returning the Environmental Impact Assessment Report for the Second Phase of the Guangzhou Likeng Domestic Waste Incineration Power Plant Construction Project, which clearly indicated the Ministry’s disagreement on the project of the second phase of the incinerator. However, the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau purposefully adjusted the water conservation district and went forward with the project in 2009. Moreover, the Guangzhou Urban Management Committee signed off the project of the Likeng comprehensive waste treatment plant without even informing the villagers. (1)
Likeng gained temporary pubic attention on the correlation between incineration and cancer through being instrumentalised by the wealthier and socially better connected Panyu middle class residents, who manipulated media power to stop the incinerator project in their district. These Panyu homeowners were criticised for using Likeng as evidence to fight for their own welfare rather than offering effective help to the villagers to gain justice. (4) In addition, the villagers received little help from professional researchers or environmental NGOs. (7) Although there had been lots of assumption from professionals, including medical professors, on the link between the increase in cancer cases and air pollution caused by incinerators, no substantial correlation was proven. (5) As Yongxing villagers’ voices alone were too weak to keep the media and public attention maintained and expanding, the case gradually cooled down and eventually got ditched. (7)
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

5. 李坑垃圾焚烧发电厂附近部分村民死于癌症
[click to view]

6. 广州数百人排队领信访号码反对建垃圾焚烧场
[click to view]

2. 广州市长:垃圾分类“打硬仗”三载 “胜利”需等后年
[click to view]

4. Cold comfort for villagers as incinerator for city scrapped
[click to view]

1. 一个与垃圾场共生20年的村落 李坑抗争史
[click to view]

IPEN and Green Beagle, Feb 2015 - China chemical safety case study: Likeng incinerator in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province
[click to view]

3. Lora-Wainwright, Anna ‘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

7. Fulda A. (ed) (2015) Civil Society Contributions to Policy Innovation in the PR China, Palgrave Macmillan
[click to view]

Officials feel heat over waste incinerator
[click to view]

Environmental survey results over incinerator questioned
[click to view]

Incinerator resumes operations
[click to view]

Hundreds in south China oppose waste incinerator
[click to view]

Veolia China on waste management activities
[click to view]

China chemical safety case study: Likeng incinerator in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. In the frame of the EU-funded project:

Strengthening the capacity of pollution victims and civil society organizations to increase chemical safety in China (China Chemical Safety Project) IPEN and Green Beagle . February 2015
[click to view]

Other comments:A EU project has published a report in Febr. 2015, China chemical safety case study: Likeng incinerator in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province.
Meta information
Contributor:EJOLT team at the China Environment and Welfare Research Group, University of Oxford
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2197
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