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Hangzhou protest tests China's governing capacity

Xinhua, May 14, 2014 Adjust font size:

Hundreds of locals on Wednesday continued to protest against a planned waste incinerator in east China's Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province.

"I welcome a new incinerator, but not in my backyard (NIMBY)," one protestor said. The protest highlights public concern and is a test for the local government.

Protests began in April when Hangzhou municipal government released information about the incinerator. It is a major project for the city, which has to find ways to ease pressure on garbage disposal.

The planned location of the incinerator is Zhongtai Township in Yuhang District in western Hangzhou.

The site used to be Jiufeng mine, which is surrounded by hills. The incinerator would process garbage from residents living in the city's western area.

Residents argue the project will impact their living conditions, health and the value of properties.

"It will be so horrible if the region is polluted by the incinerator," said a resident surnamed Chen.

On Saturday protesters rushed onto the Hangzhou-Anhui highway, interrupting traffic. At least 10 protestors and 29 policemen were injured during clashes.

On Sunday local government authorities promised construction would not start without public support and before going through the legal process.

But protests have continued this week.

The incinerator is seen as the most feasible and effective means to ease the amount of garbage in the city. Once in use, three other waste incineration plants would be shut down, said the municipal government.

The city has to bury more than 5,000 tonnes of landfill waste, much more than the processing capacity of its existing incinerators. This has a huge impact on the environment, the government said.

The NIMBY movement represents worries among residents and their concerns for the environment.

"China gained its high-speed economic development at a high cost to the environment. Resulting environmental pollution has affected people's bodies and minds," said Yang Jianhua, director of the Institute for Public Policy of Zhejiang Academy of Social Sciences.

"The top priority for the government is to regain public trust," he said.

The public demands to be part of social governance as China progresses.

Yang called for a change in the government management model.

A government's slow or poor planning decision might lead to questioning and protests. Joint discussions and an evaluation would allow for a more balanced decision, he said.

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