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Cablegate: Something Stinks in Guangzhou - Government Forced to Adopt

VZCZCXRO2579
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHGZ #0050/01 0320052
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010052Z FEB 10
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1328
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE 0451
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1083
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0376
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0377
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0386
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0441
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0324
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC 0134
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC 0060
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC 0033
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC 0242
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC 0419
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC 0415

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 GUANGZHOU 000050

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/CM, EB/ESC, OES/ENV, INR/EAP
STATE PASS EPA
BEIJING FOR FCS, ESTH AND DOE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV PGOV ECPS EIND CH HK
SUBJECT: Something Stinks in Guangzhou - Government Forced to Adopt
New Approach to Solving City's Garbage Problem

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1. (SBU) Summary and Comment: After sustained public pressure
forced officials in December to shelve a garbage incineration
project, Guangzhou is now turning to the Internet for solutions to
the city's growing waste disposal problem. Guangzhou's municipal
government issued a notice January 14 urging residents to submit
(via the websites of four media networks and two government
departments) proposals for dealing with the city's mounting trash --
nearly 12,000 tons per day. The city government's newly announced
public consultation strategy contrasts sharply with its initial
intransigence regarding construction of the incinerator in Panyu
district and may indicate a shift towards greater willingness to
solicit public input, at least for policies with environment and
public health implications. End Summary and Comment.

--------------------------------------------- ------
GOVERNMENT FIRMLY BEHIND INCINERATOR TWO MONTHS AGO
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (SBU) In late November 2009, municipal officials announced their
intention to move forward with the construction of a garbage
incineration plant in Panyu, which had been authorized in 2002 by
the Panyu District People's Congress. With a total capacity of
2,000 tons per day, the incinerator, if built, would fulfill the
city's requirement that the 1,600 tons of trash produced each day in
Panyu be disposed of in the same district. Officials initially
turned a deaf ear to public concerns voiced in newspapers and online
chat rooms that residents living near a waste incinerator built in
2005 in Likeng district exhibited a higher incidence of cancer. At
a November 22 press conference, Lu Zhiyi, vice secretary general of
the Guangzhou municipal government told reporters that construction
of the incinerator would proceed according to schedule. He also
stated his belief that the negative health impacts of dioxin -- a
by-product of burning garbage -- had been exaggerated and assured
reporters that the incineration plant would introduce
state-of-the-art overseas technology to limit pollution. (Note: A
study released this week by the Guangdong CDC concluded that cancer
rates in the village surrounding the Likeng garbage incinerator were
not elevated compared to the city's overall rates. End Note.)

-----------------------------------------
HEALTH CONCERNS TRIGGERED PUBLIC BACKLASH
-----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Vice Secretary General Lu assured reporters at the
conference that construction of the incinerator would not commence
until an environmental impact assessment had been completed.
Without elaborating Lu also mentioned that Panyu residents would
have the opportunity to express their opinions about the proposed
incineration plant through a series of public events. Taking this
comment as an invitation, the next day 300 residents flooded
Guangzhou municipal government headquarters, blocking entrances on
both sides of the building. The residents also filed a petition
with the Guangzhou Urban Management Committee indicating their
opposition to the project. Later that day, Guangzhou Vice Mayor Su
Zequn articulated a revised government position; namely, that the
incinerator project would not move forward if opposed by the
majority of residents. Su hedged his comments by noting that Panyu
residents would still be held responsible for disposing of the
garbage they produced.

----------------------------------
RESIDENT JOURNALISTS PLAY KEY ROLE
----------------------------------

4. (SBU) Increasing environmental awareness and the growing
popularity of the "NIMBY" (not in my backyard) attitude are the
primary factors driving the organized public and media response,
according to a researcher at the Guangzhou Academy of Social
Sciences. The contact also told ESTHOff that Panyu district is home
to at least 200 influential journalists and that despite orders from
the city government to tone down articles written about the
incinerator project, the journalists were able to use personal
connections with national-level media to attract central government
attention to the issue. In addition, our contact claimed that the

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Panyu incident reveals the lack of government capacity for dealing
with the public, which Panyu Party Secretary Tan Yinghua also
acknowledged by publicly apologizing for ignoring public opinions
during the policy planning process.

-----------------------------------------
CORRUPTION ALLEGATION PROMPTS POSPONEMENT
-----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) While public pressure may have succeeded in wearing down
the government's defense of the incineration project, it was a
corruption allegation posted on an influential website that appears
to have scored the knockout. On December 1, a well-known netizen
posted a message indicating that Vice Secretary General Lu Zhiyi's
brother was the manager of elevator and equipment manufacturer
Guangri Group -- wholly owned by the Guangzhou municipal government
-- and that his son had been hired as manager of the procurement
department of a company called Guangzhou Environmental Investment.
The brother's company had signed a BOT (build-operate-transfer)
contract with the Guangzhou government to be responsible for the
investment, construction, operation and maintenance of Guangzhou's
incineration projects while the son's company was launched as a
subsidiary of Guangri Group to focus on incinerator construction.
Although Vice Secretary General Lu called the allegations "sheer
nonsense," the next official statement on the incineration project
was the announcement on December 20 that it had been postponed.

------------------------------- -------------------------
GOVERNMENT SWITCHES TACTICS BUT INCINERATOR NOT OFF TABLE
------------------------------- -------------------------

6. (SBU) On December 11, the Panyu district government issued a
three-step plan for reaching a consensus on garbage disposal. The
first step, set to last until the end of January, is the
implementation of a garbage classification pilot program in three
neighborhoods of the district, with the goal of reaching a 30%
recycling rate in these areas. From January until the end of 2010,
the whole district will engage in garbage classification with a goal
of 30% district-wide recycling rate by 2012. The third proposed
step, which sparked an immediate negative reaction in local media,
requires the government and residents to work together to pick a
site in Panyu for the location of a garbage incinerator.

7. (SBU) More recently, the government issued a notice on January
14 calling on residents to submit ideas and proposals for solving
the city's garbage problem directly to relevant government
departments. The notice directed residents to links on the websites
of four major media networks and two government offices -- the
Guangzhou Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) and the Guangzhou
Urban Management Commission -- for an online form submitted directly
to the municipal government. One catch is that netizens are
required on these sites to provide their on-line name, real name,
cell phone number, and mailing address. Also, it appears that only
one of the media sites allows users to view comments posted by
fellow residents.

--------------------------- ----------------------
NEED SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE ON WASTE DISPOSAL SYSTEMS
--------------------------- ----------------------

8. (SBU) Comment: The municipal government may ultimately defeat
corruption charges and disregard public opposition to build the
incineration plant in Panyu. At least in the short term, however,
officials appear open to consulting with the public and experts on
alternative solutions. Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences Party
Secretary Li Jiangtao recently told the Consul General that solid
waste disposal was one of the most critical problems the city faces.
Scientific evidence regarding the relative health impacts of
incinerators versus landfills could help the government make a
decision and form the foundation for a more rational public debate
on the garbage disposal issue, according to one of the Academy's
researchers. After speculating that the use of several large
incineration plants with advanced environmental controls might be a
superior option to the current reliance on small landfills, the

GUANGZHOU 00000050 003.2 OF 003


researcher requested the Consulate's assistance in providing
information regarding the U.S. experience with waste disposal
systems.

---------------------------------------------
NEW TACTICS MAY INCREASE PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
---------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) Comment (continued): The resolution of the Panyu garbage
problem notwithstanding, the government's public acknowledgement
that the failure to consult with residents before developing the
garbage disposal plan led to its failure may reflect greater
willingness in local government to consult with the public.
Emboldened by the success of public demonstrations, media activism,
and online criticism in the Panyu case, city dwellers may be
increasingly unwilling to tolerate government proposals they
perceive will adversely affect their health or living environment.
Government officials, as a result, may decide to expand the use of
the Internet as a tool for consulting and negotiating with the
public during the planning process in order to avoid triggering
future protests and attracting negative attention. End Comment.

GOLDBECK

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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