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East China Farmers Say Power Plant Will Pollute Villages
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The Zhejiang Provincial Development and Reform Commission is being sued over a plan to build a special power plant that uses rubbish as fuel.


Nearly 300 farmers in Cangnan County have taken the commission to court because they say the power plant could cause environmental problems near their villages.


They also say the approval for the plan was given without any public hearing, Hangzhou's West Lake District Court heard.


The commission says the power plant is safe, although one official, who did not want to be named, admitted it could lead to pollution.


He said: "There's no problem with the procedures and the power plant should not affect the environment. But there could be problems if it is not run properly."


According to the Administrative Licensing Law, authorities should inform persons likely to be affected by a project before it is approved, and hold public hearings when required, said Huang Langhong, the farmers' lawyer.


"The power plant is to be built near my house and it will not only threaten our health, but also pose a danger to future generations when it is completed," said Xu Yishan, 61, the farmers' representative.


Xu said the construction of the plant started in January this year, although no one in the neighboring three villages, home to around 4,000 people, received official information about the project from the government.


"The government also failed to get approval for the project from people living within 300 meters of the plant. This area could be affected by pollution," said Huang.


For example, a building used by the elderly association in Zhong Duikou Village is located only 87 meters away from the factory, Huang said.


The garbage-fired power plant will use 400 tons of waste every day, producing dioxin, a highly toxic chemical.


Dioxin can cause cancer, damage the immune system and interfere with hormonal systems, Huang added.


These farmers, over 60 of whom showed up in court for Monday's hearing, are asking for a ruling that the commission acted illegally, and they want the plant relocated.


Jiang Conghua, a lawyer for the commission, defended its actions.


The project is a "non-administrative licensing approval project" and is not covered by the Administrative Licensing Law, said Jiang.


Jiang added that before the project was approved, the commission carried out an investigation and received approval from the Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau, which followed legal procedures.


Further, local officials visited villagers for advice before they applied for the approval, said Chen Lisen, a lawyer representing Cangnan's county government, the third party in the case.


Chen also denied that the plant would pollute the local environment. He said it will use the most advanced technology to clean up waste water and the resultant dioxin.


(China Daily June 14, 2005)

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