Hundreds protest S.China project over pollution worries

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hundreds of protesters in southern China donned masks to protest a planned incinerator plant, the latest grassroots initiative to target polluting projects in the region.

Mobilized by phone and over the Internet, about 400 protesters from Foshan municipality showed up in surgical masks to urge local authorities to scrap the proposed construction of a Jiangnan sludge incinerator in Nanhai district, west of Shenzhen, the Guangzhou Daily newspaper reported on Monday.

“Defend our homeland, oppose pollution,” the protesters chanted, according to the paper, while a large number of police officers monitored them.

In recent months, authorities in southern Guangdong province have faced increasingly assertive protests by residents opposed to potentially high-polluting projects including plans for a waste incinerator in Guangzhou’s Panyu district that was eventually put off by authorities.

Pan Zhiwen, a former mayor of Gaoming, a nearby town, was quoted as saying by the newspaper that should the Nanhai sludge incinerator fail an environmental impact assessment, his local government would be “firmly opposed to the project.”

Guangdong province has experienced serious environmental degradation after nearly three decades of break-neck development. Environmental activism, however, has grown in recent years as the city’s burgeoning middle class pursue a higher quality of life.

In a recent case, a proposed multi-billion dollar oil refinery in the ecologically rich Nansha district just downstream from Guangzhou along the Pearl River, was relocated to a less populated area in western Guangdong after a major public uproar.

Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Ken Wills