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Cablegate: Another Fujian Community Grapples with Unwanted Wastewater

VZCZCXRO6618
RR RUEHAST RUEHDH RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHSL
RUEHTM RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGZ #0570/01 2720742
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290742Z SEP 09
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0961
INFO RUEHGZ/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE 0273
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0755
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0211
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0221
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0212
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0282
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0204
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE 0024
RHMFIUU/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC 0034
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC 0260
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC 0256
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J00/J2/J3/J5// 0022

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUANGZHOU 000570

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/CM, DRL AND OES/PCI
EPA FOR OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV PHUM ECON PGOV CH
SUBJECT: Another Fujian Community Grapples with Unwanted Wastewater
Treatment Plant

REF A) Guangzhou 553 and previous

GUANGZHOU 00000570 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) Summary. Residents of Chang'an Village oppose government
plans to build a wastewater treatment plant in their community. But
unlike villagers of Fengwei Township who have responded with a
violent protest (reftels), the Chang'an villagers have sought the
guidance of a Fuzhou-based environmental NGO and are exploring legal
measures to protect their community. The Chang'an villagers'
willingness to consider legal measures stems from earlier,
successful collaboration with the environmental NGO in utilizing the
courts to deal with a polluting enterprise in 2008. End summary.

2. (U) On September 18, a ConGen staff member joined eight Fujian
Green Home staff members and volunteers in visiting Chang'an, a
village located approximately 20 miles from Fujian's capital city of
Fuzhou. Chang'an is situated on the banks of the Min Jiang River
where the river enters the East China Sea. The village is a
comparatively wealthy one; its economy is boosted by remittances
sent from abroad. Villagers estimate that of the 6,000 households
in the village, 5,000 have at least one family member in the United
States. The primary purpose of the Green Home visit to Chang'an was
to discuss villager concerns about a proposed wastewater treatment
plant.

Visiting the Proposed Wastewater Treatment Plant Site
--------------------------------------------- --------

3. (U) Escorted by three villagers, the Green Home delegation
visited the site proposed for the wastewater treatment plant and an
existing, nearby water reservoir. The water reservoir provides
drinking water for the village and has done so for many years.
Villagers expressed concern over plans to build the wastewater
treatment facility immediately adjacent to the reservoir. They fear
that that the wastewater treatment plant will contaminate the water
reservoir. One villager noted that the government originally
planned to locate the wastewater treatment plant only 50 meters from
the reservoir. After strong protests from the villagers, the
planners moved the site of the plant back an additional 50 meters.
The villagers feel that this is still too close. The Green Home
participants noted that Green Home had effectively intervened on a
separate issue relating to the water reservoir. When a high speed
rail bridge was built over the reservoir, the railway contractor
originally planned to allow runoff from the railway bridge to fall
directly into the water reservoir. After a meeting in which Green
Home conveyed the villagers' concerns, the contractor agreed to
install a drainage pipe to collect and direct wastewater from the
passing trains into a nearby sewage drain.

Not In My Backyard
------------------

4. (U) During an animated discussion-turned-debate, villagers
described their concerns regarding the wastewater treatment plant.
They expressed fears the plant will pollute the village's
environment and emit foul odors. Green Home delegation members
encouraged the villagers to use environment-related laws and
regulations to make a case that the plant's location is too close to
the drinking water reservoir. Green Home participants also
suggested testing the reservoir's water to establish benchmarks by
which contamination could be measured in the future. Villagers
responded that they didn't want to find out, only when it was too
late, that the plant presented pollution risks to the water
reservoir. Rather, they hoped to avert problems by having the plant
location changed now. Villagers also expressed concerns that since
a growing number of factories are being built in the area, the
wastewater treatment plant may not be up to the task of handling
industrial wastes if it is designed and built to handle only
residential wastewater.

Seeking the Advice of Experts
-----------------------------

5. (U) Green Home representatives encouraged the villagers to visit
nearby wastewater treatment plants currently in operation and talk
to residents who live around the plants and to officials who operate

GUANGZHOU 00000570 002.2 OF 002


the plants in order to learn how the wastewater is handled. The
Green Home representatives also encouraged the villagers to ask
local environmental protection bureau officials to provide a
briefing to the villagers about existing regulations and laws
designed to protect the rights of residents in the community.

6. (U) The discussion took an unexpected turn when a villager
showed the Green Home representatives a copy of the government's
environmental impact assessment for the wastewater treatment plant.
Villagers admitted that they didn't really understand the document.
Green Home's science consultants helped the villagers to go over
some of the conclusions in the report. One of the report's
conclusions was that the village's water reservoir should be
abandoned for water safety reasons and that water for the village
should be supplied by building a new, underground pipe from another
reservoir. Green Home representatives urged the villagers to
continue to study the report closely and advise Green Home of any
additional questions. Green Home specialists plan to make another
visit to discuss villager concerns.

7. (U) During the later part of the discussion the local party
secretary dropped by. The villagers appeared to welcome his
presence and participation in the discussion, which continued
largely unaffected by his arrival. The party secretary noted that
he welcomed the Green Home visit. He also encouraged the villagers
to study the environmental impact assessment and to continue their
fact-finding efforts by having further discussions with Green Home
and environment officials and experts.

A "Green Countryside" Model Village
-----------------------------------

8. (U) Chang'an village's collaboration with Fujian Green Home
dates back to 2008, when villagers became alarmed about pollution
from a bio-diesel chemical plant located a few hundred meters
northeast of the village. Villagers accused the plant of illegally
discharging pollutants directly into the Min Jiang River. Green
Home provided assistance in measuring and monitoring the river's
water quality and advice on seeking legal remedies. With this
assistance, villagers were able to use the courts to resolve the
problem. Following this experience, Chang'an became what Green Home
called a "Green Countryside" model village. In addition to
providing Chang'an residents with advice on environmental issues,
the close collaboration allows Green Home personnel to study and
better understand the drastic structural changes occurring as rural
areas become increasingly industrialized. Green Home experts noted
that polluting industries are often attracted to rural areas where
they generally find a more lax enforcement of environmental
regulations and a greater tolerance for pollution on the part of the
comparatively uninformed rural residents. The Green Home
representatives commended the growing sense of environmental
awareness displayed by Chang'an villagers, and the Green Home
representatives expressed a hope that other rural villages in
Fujian's coastal area can replicate Chang'an's success in
confronting polluting enterprises by using legal measures.

9. (SBU) Comment: The Chang'an case demonstrates the constructive
role that a non-governmental organization can play in providing
information and expert advice. This, in turn, allows residents to
make more informed decisions regarding their responses to
environmental issues that impact their community. Unfortunately,
most local NGOs have resource and personnel constraints that limit
their reach--especially to rural areas. End comment.

GOLDBECK

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