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Oji paper mill's sewage project in Qidong, Jiangsu, China


The coastal city of Qidong is located at the mouth of the Yangtze River, approximately one hour north of Shanghai.[1] The city's economy is centered largely on the fishing industry, and is a major source of lobster and shrimp exports.[2] However, the local authorities have attracted pharmaceutical companies, chemical fertilizer plants and computer parts factories with tax breaks and other enticements.  In June 2003, it was announced that Oji Paper had decided to construct a new paper factory in Nantong, a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu province.[3] The new factory, named Jiangsu Oji Paper Co. Ltd. (Jiangsu Oji Paper), is expected to become the biggest integrated pulp project in China. It is estimated that once the project is up and running, it will bring in over 700 million yuan in tax revenue every year.[4]

To attract Oji’s investment in Nantong, the Nantong municipal government offered a proposal to construct a facility in Nantong that discharges industry-standard wastewater into the sea in order to facilitate the emission of wastewater from Oji Paper. The feasibility study of this wastewater discharge facility started even earlier than the paper mill by Hohai University.[5] In 2007, the Oji Paper Company began construction of a paper mill in the city of Nantong, Jiangsu, located approximately 100 km inland from the coast. The planned 104-kilometer-long pipeline would have six kilometers in marine area, with approximately 2.2 kilometers going through mud flats and the remaining 3.8 kilometers extending to the Yellow Sea. The outlet of the pipeline would be located in the waters within Qidong City, while designed capacity of the pipeline is to transport approximately 150,000 tons of waste water per day from Nantong to the coast off Qidong.[6]

However, residents in Qidong, who depend on the sea for their livelihood, strongly opposed the project. With 203 kilometers of shoreline, 660,000 mu (1 mu= 0.0667 hectares) of mud flats, and the Lüsi Fishing Port known as one of the country's four major fishing ports, Qidong has formed a highly efficient fishing industrial chain. A large number of fishermen earn their livings in Qidong's coastal zone. The drainage pipeline would impact the local fish breeding and fishing industries. The construction at the bottom of the sea would damage fish spawn, fish larvae, and juvenile fish; once the pipeline is up and running, based on the forecast that during the first stage of the project, 65,000 tons of waste would be discharged into the sea through the pipeline every day, an area of 0.065-0.84 square kilometers near the outlet would become a wastewater mixing zone unsuitable for breeding fish. [4] There were also concerns that the discharge from the paper mill could pollute Shanghai's Qingcaosha Reservoir at the mouth of the Yangtze River, from where most Shanghai residents receive their water.[7]

Initially, the proposed project met strong opposition from several deputy members of Qidong Municipal People’s Congress. During the 14th session of Qidong Municipal People’s Congress in 2005, 21 deputies jointly submitted “a motion for the Nantong project that discharges industry-standard wastewater into the sea” and 20 other deputies submitted “a motion that raises resolute opposition to waste-water discharge from Japan’s Oji Paper factory into the sea”. Both motions stated the deputies’ concerns about the risks and legality of the proposed project. The proposers of both motions held that the proposed project would seriously pollute Qidong’s marine environment, with adverse effects on Qidong’s marine fisheries and residents’ health. Nonetheless, the deputies’ opposition did not effectively halt the project from proceeding. On 13 October 2008, Jiangsu’s Environment Protection Bureau approved the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the inland section of the planned project. On 17 December 2008, the Jiangsu Ocean and Fishery Bureau approved the EIA report of the planned project on marine environment. On 2 February 2009, Jiangsu Development and Reform Commission approved the feasibility study report for the planned project.[8]

Since 2007, some local netizens in Qidong also began to post on a local online forum called Qi Wu Dong Jiang[9], voicing their opposition to the proposed project, but their actions did not attract much attention. It was not until mid-2009 that the forum’s posts protesting the proposed project aroused widespread concerns. Meanwhile, the opposition had spilled over from online to offline. After connecting through online communities such as QQ groups (popular instant chat software), a number of local activists began to conduct a series of offline mobilization activities, such as distributing leaflets, go-green bags with slogans, and collecting signatures downtown and along the coastal areas in Qidong, to register strong objection to the proposed project. Local activists also voiced their concerns about the risks to Qidong’s marine environment and the residents’ health by petitioning the governments and media, and by filing an administrative lawsuit in the Nanjing Intermediate People’s Court and Jiangsu Provincial High Court. The local citizens’ collective actions were successful in suspending the construction of the proposed project. [8]

However, in late May 2012, the local activists were informed that the construction of the pipeline project would restart, so they decided to resume their collective actions, which had come to a halt. On 18 June 2012, Nantong government officials went to Qidong to engage in a dialogue with local citizens including the activists, deputy members of Qidong’s Municipal People’s Congress, fishermen and retired cadres of Qidong. Unfortunately, there was no consensus reached by all of the parties. Meanwhile, the mass mobilization escalated in Qidong with the activists calling out to the public to oppose the proposed project in urban parks, residential areas, and coastal towns and villages. On 6 July, two activists submitted an application to the local authority for a demonstration to be held on 28–30 July. Although the application was rejected by the officials, and the local government sent text messages to residents and storekeepers on before 28 July asking them not to participate in the demonstration, thousands of citizens decided to go ahead with the demonstration and the details were quickly spread throughout the city via the internet and offline mobilization efforts. [8]

On the morning of 28 July, despite the local government’s preventative efforts, including halting public transport services, issuing a public letter to citizens, announcing possible penalty measures for joining, and deploying a large number of police along the proposed demonstration route, the protest still occurred. Sina Weibo, the Chinese social network, even spoke of up to 100,000 demonstrators. [7]

Thousands of people stormed the Qidong municipal government compound and several protesters entered the city government’s main building where they smashed computers, overturned desks and threw documents out the windows to loud cheers from the crowd, at least one police car was turned on its side at the protest. According to Reuters, at least two police officers were dragged into the crowd at the government office and punched and beaten enough to make them bleed.[10] Some images showed police being assaulted and a man described as the municipal party secretary surrounded by a crowd and stripped of his shirt.[11] The clash was quelled in the afternoon when Ding Dawei, Party Secretary of Nantong City, announced through a loudspeaker that the project would be "permanently halted."[12]

Nationalist comments were mixed with lingering calls for further protest on Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblogging service, showing yet again the anti-Japanese sentiment still to be found in China. Weibo users expressed their emotional feelings such as, “How can a Japanese paper factory come and damage Chinese people’s health and our environment? How can we with our 1.3-billion population be afraid of that little Japan?” “The whole nation should boycott Japanese products,” “Little Japan, get out of my country!” Online users also called for continued efforts against Oji paper itself. A search for the phrase “boycott Nepia” – the brand name of a tissue that Oji sells in China – turned up more than 100,000 posts on 30th July. This pipeline project triggered online opposition beyond Qidong. A Weibo account named “We Are All in Shanghai” called for Shanghai residents to protect their drinking water from being polluted by this project. “It does not mean that we hate Japan. We just target its blind development based on damaging our environment”.[13]

Since the Nantong government decided to halt the project, Jiangsu Oji Paper has no choice but to continue releasing its waste into the Yangtze River, a practice that has lasted for more than a year since the factory opened in 2011. The Yangtze River already has an obvious pollution belt in the coastal waters along the lower reaches of the river, where numerous chemical factories rest along both banks. Research shows that 50 to 80 percent of the water sources in cities along the Yangtze River are at risk of being polluted. [4]

After receiving approval from local authorities for a method of cleaning the wastewater using membrane technology and reusing it[14], Oji Paper started its full-scale operations at an integrated pulp and paper plant in their Jiangsu plant that had been delayed by opposition from local residents in 2012. The test operations of the pulp facilities began in June 2014. The Nantong plant was in the red due to rising production costs because it was unable to procure pulp in-house before the integration.[15]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Oji paper mill's sewage project in Qidong, Jiangsu, China
State or province:Jiangsu
Location of conflict:6 kilometers northeast of Tanglu Harbor along the coastline of Qidong
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Manufacturing activities
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific commodities:paper
Manufactured Products

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The sewage project was located six kilometres northeast of Tanglu Harbour along the coastline of Qidong, a county-level city under the administration of Nantong. The maximum volume that the planned pipeline was designed to transport was up to 150,000 tons per day.

Founded in 1873, Oji is Japan’s second largest papermaker after Nippon Paper Group (“NPPNF”), operating more than 20 mills throughout Japan that produce a variety of paper products, including printing and writing papers, corrugated board and boxboard. OJI has approximately 120 subsidiaries and affiliates worldwide, including operations in the Americas, the Asia/Pacific region, and Europe.

Project area:8,400
Level of Investment for the conflictive project200,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:200,000~1,000,000
Start of the conflict:07/2012
Company names or state enterprises:Oji Holdings Corporation (Oji Paper) from Japan
Jiangsu Oji Paper Co., Ltd. from Japan
Nantong Economic and Technology Development Area (NETDA) from China
Relevant government actors:-Nantong municipal government
-the Oceanic and Fishery Bureau of Jiangsu province
-the Environmental Protection Department of Jiangsu province
-the Development and Reform Commission of Jiangsu
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-Qi Wu Dong Jiang BBS forum (
-The local volunteer groups

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Boycotts of companies-products
Stroll/go for a walk/take a walk


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Other Environmental impactsimpact on the marine environment and pollution from toxic and hazardous substances
Health ImpactsPotential: Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts, Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsPotential risks identified by the activists without confirmation from scientific evidence--1. potential health problems due to the consumption of poisoned aquatic products with the accumulation of toxic and hazardous substances; 2. higher prevalence of all kinds of strange illnesses in children, such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, etc., and a higher probability of pregnant women giving birth to abnormal children.
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Other socio-economic impacts1. potential damages to Qidong's marine fisheries and aquaculture; 2. the loss of collective memories, history and dietary culture related to the marine environment


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Project cancelled
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The construction of the discharge pipeline has been canceled. The company adopted advanced technology to recycle the wastewater.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

中华人民共和国海洋环境保护法(修订)Marine Environment Protection Law of the People's Republic of China [Revised]

中华人民共和国环境影响评价法Law of the People’s Republic of China on Appraising of Environment Impacts

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[8] Jian, Lu, and Chris King-Chi Chan. "Collective Identity, Framing and Mobilisation of Environmental Protests in Urban China: A Case Study of Qidong's Protest." China: An International Journal 14.2 (2016): 102-122.

Kriesi, Hanspeter, Lisheng Dong, and Daniel Kübler, eds. Urban mobilizations and new media in contemporary China. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015.

[1] Chinese protesters plead guilty after water pollution riot in Qidong

[2] Waste Project Is Abandoned Following Protests in China


[4] Pollution Risk Passed on to Yangtze River After Qidong Protest

[5]污水排向何方? 启东启示录


[7] Paper mill pipeline scrapped after outcry

[9] 启吾东疆

[10] China cancels waste project after protests turn violent

[11] Environmental Protest Blocks Wastewater Pipeline Near Shanghai


[13] Qidong Protest Prompts Anti-Japan Sentiment

[14] Chinese researchers help paper plant realize zero waste discharge

[15] Oji to start integrated pulp, paper production at China plant

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Qidong Paper Mill Waste Threatens Shanghai

Meta information

Contributor:EnvJustice, ICTA-UAB
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3128



An outcry for justice


Love my hometown, protect the environment, refuse Oji sewage project


Protesters in Qidong


Children joining the protest


Stickers on the wall to refuse Oji Paper sewage project


Police in Qidong riots


Occupying the Qidong Government building


Banner: Qidong is not a sewer, the fishing port is not a septic tank


Map of the project