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Villagers protest chemical plant in Hunan
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Villagers took to the streets again yesterday in Zhentou township, Hunan province, to protest detentions during the previous day's demonstrations against pollution problems caused by a chemical plant.

The protests were at the local government building and police station, sources said yesterday.

A township government spokesman said villagers on Wednesday staged the protests because they felt they were not being fairly treated for problems caused by pollution from the Xianhe Chemical plant.

They asked for free health check-ups, free medical treatment if they suffered problems because of the pollution and compensation for ruined crops and land.

Yesterday, villagers protested the detention of six villagers and demanded a solution once and for all. One person was injured in Wednesday's protest.

The township comes under the jurisdiction of Liuyang, a county-level city of Changsha, the provincial capital of Hunan.

A source from the Hunan provincial environmental protection department said the plant, in Shuangqiao village of the township, became operational in April 2004.

From the start it was riddled with problems including poor environmental management, storage of solid waste and a lack of rainwater collection devices.

Local villagers' complaints about the plant's effect on the environment have soared since 2008. The villagers said the plant was harming the local environment with high levels of the toxic heavy metals cadmium and indium, which in turn endangered the safety of drinking water in the vicinity.

The environmental protection department ordered the plant to halt production in March this year.

This year government departments in Changsha and Liuyang cities set up a joint group responsible for carrying out surveys into the chemical plant's negative impact on the environment and people's health.

Villagers whose urinary tests showed excessive cadmium levels have received medical treatment.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency July 31, 2009)

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