Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Pollution and violent protest in China

What makes this associated press article interesting is the link between public protest, health and industrial location. After 10 years of being poisoned the polluting plant has now, eventually, been shut down. I suppose this can be considered Kuznets at work - as China grows and wealth increases there is a stronger demand for a cleaner environment. Moreover, Chinese environmental instutitions seems to be growing bigger teeth and beginning to use them.

There is a well developed academic literature looking at some of these issues for developed and developing countries examining the effect of formal and informal regulations. We are currently looking at a US ZIP code level study using TRI data to investigate how the location of polluting plants is influenced by community characteristics. We hope to have preliminary results soon.

Smelting Plant Blamed for Poisoning Hundreds in China Reported Many Times

September 12, 2006 — By Associated Press
BEIJING — A smelting plant in western China that poisoned hundreds of villagers by dumping lead into the air and water was repeatedly reported to local officials during its 10 years of operation, state media said Tuesday.

"They paid no attention," the official China Daily newspaper quoted local farmer Zhou Yongjie as saying.

A local environmental protection official, Yang Hua, told the paper the Huixian County Non-Ferrous Metal Smelting Plant had been ordered to stop discharging pollutants, but it continued to do so in secret. Yang did not say when the order was issued.

At least 877 villagers from Xinsi and Moba in Gansu province have tested positive for excessive amounts of lead in their blood since authorities began investigating in August, the official China Daily newspaper said. Among those poisoned were some 334 children under the age of 14, it said. No deaths have been reported.

Authorities said the Huixian County Non-Ferrous Metal Smelting Plant has been shut down and is being dismantled.

"It must be relocated to a place far from residential areas and water sources," said Ren Longjiang, a State Environmental Protection Administration official was quoted as saying.

Excessive amounts of lead can damage the nervous and reproductive systems and cause high blood pressure and anemia. Lead poisoning is characterized by a blue line around the gums and in severe cases can cause convulsions, coma and death.

The poisonings added to a string of recent pollution disasters in China that have prompted violent protests in some areas.

Source: Associated Press

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