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Farmers' Pollution Fears Lead to Safety Pledge

Farmers staging a week-long protest have finally won their battle against a pharmaceutical plant they say is polluting their area.

The local government has now stepped in to pledge that chemicals used by the plant, in Xinchang County, Zhejiang Province, will be disposed of safely.

Local villagers said they support the government's decision to dispose of dangerous pollutants.

"We trust the government that things will be settled in our favor," Liang Guorong, a local farmer from Shizuowan Village, said yesterday. "We finally realize that the government is trying to help us."

Jingxin Pharmaceutical Plant was forced to shut down on July 4 when farmers protested against the way it disposed of harmful chemical waste, which they said was causing problems in the nearby Xinchang River.

The latest outcry last Friday was caused when the plant reopened, with farmers believing safe disposal measures had still not been put in place.

Nearly 100 farmers, mainly from Huangniqiao Village, protested outside and tried to stop it operating. On July 17, more gathered, and when a police cordon blocked them they went onto a nearby highway, causing traffic delays.

In fact the plant had reopened because it was "trying to dispose of dangerous chemicals left on the production line when the plant was forced to stop on July 4," said Ding Jianping, director of the Shaoxing Municipal Information Office. "Police were sent to the spot to prevent local villagers going near to toxic materials.

"Nearly 1,000 tons of pharmaceutical materials that were inflammable and explosive left in the plant must be dealt with immediately."

If not treated quickly, these materials could even have fatal consequences, Ding added.

He did not say what kind of chemicals the plant was trying to dispose of.

As the protest wore on, teams of officials and experts went around the village door to door, convincing people the plant was now safe.

By 7:30 AM yesterday, all toxic pharmaceutical materials had been disposed of safely, ensuring the safety of neighboring villagers, Ding added.

(China Daily July 22, 2005)

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