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
NameYongxing Cancer Village near Likeng Landfill and Incinerators in Guangdong Province, China
ProvinceGuangdong Province
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 CommoditiesElectricity
Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe 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 Date01/01/1989
Company Names or State EnterprisesGuangzhou 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." (veolia.ch)
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Environmental Protection

Guangzhou Urban Management Bureau

Guangzhou Health Bureau

Guangzhou Centre for Disease Control
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersLikeng village authorities
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
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…)
OtherAlleged emission of dioxins and furans leading to cancer
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseContinuing debate on the health risks of incineration
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.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 and Materials

6. 广州数百人排队领信访号码反对建垃圾焚烧场
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2. 广州市长:垃圾分类“打硬仗”三载 “胜利”需等后年
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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

5. 李坑垃圾焚烧发电厂附近部分村民死于癌症
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7. Fulda A. (ed) (2015) Civil Society Contributions to Policy Innovation in the PR China, Palgrave Macmillan
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4. Cold comfort for villagers as incinerator for city scrapped
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1. 一个与垃圾场共生20年的村落 李坑抗争史
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IPEN and Green Beagle, Feb 2015 - China chemical safety case study: Likeng incinerator in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province
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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
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Veolia China on waste management activities
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Officials feel heat over waste incinerator
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Incinerator resumes operations
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Environmental survey results over incinerator questioned
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Hundreds in south China oppose waste incinerator
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Other Documents

Explosion happened on January 7th, 2010.
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Villagers picking vegetables from the fields near the incinerator.
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The shortest distance between the incinerator and village houses was less than 150 metres. The health of villager CHEN Aidi’s family has been badly harmed.
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Overnight, CHEN Aidi’s balcony was covered with black dust from the incinerator.
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Other CommentsA EU project has published a report in Febr. 2015, China chemical safety case study: Likeng incinerator in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province.

Meta Information
ContributorEJOLT team at the China Environment and Welfare Research Group, University of Oxford
Last update27/02/2018