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Old mine may house garbage-burning plant

By Cui Xiaohuo (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-05 12:06
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A controversial waste treatment project once slated for Liulitun, Haidian district, Beijing may be recycled and built instead in an isolated mountainous area far from populated parts of the city, a Beijing News report said yesterday.

The idea of building the garbage incinerator in Liulitun was shelved after residents in the densely-populated Haidian district strongly opposed the project in 2006. The possible new plan calls for the facility to be built in the remote area northwest of Beijing by 2014.

The newspaper report came two days after Ji Lin, Beijing's executive vice-mayor, told METRO the authorities were looking for abandoned mines for such waste treatment facilities. Beijing produces around 18,000 tons of garbage a day.

"Beijing's mindset on garbage disposal is to be more focused on recycling and less on incineration," the official told METRO in an exclusive interview.

"Incineration plants will be built but only for garbage that must be burned and for which there is no alternative."

Recent public outcries against garbage incinerators have made authorities nationwide cautious about waste treatment facilities.

In December, the local government in Panyu district in Guangzhou apologized to the public and scrapped its plans to build an incinerator after repeated protests.

Beijing authorities have been "extra careful" with the issue, too, said the vice-mayor.

"We suspended the operation of Gao'antun incineration plant, the only one in Beijing, when we found the plant could not live up to environmental standards," he said last week.

The possible new location for the Liulitun project, which is close to both Haidian and Mentougou, is a mine that was exhausted several years ago.

Locating a waste treatment facility there would be unlikely to cause environmental damage, the report quoted Wang Weiping as saying.

Wang is a senior advisor to the municipal administration commission that supervises garbage disposal citywide.

"Authorities want to move away the controversial project because they are not sure how much damage it may cause to densely populated Haidian district and further hurt the commercial prospects of Zhongguancun," Wang told Beijing News.

The senior government advisor, who is a local legislator, declined phone interviews yesterday.

"I've already said too much," he told METRO before hanging up and leaving his phone unanswered.

However, the municipal administration commission said yesterday the plan to move the Liulitun project to new a location was still "immature".

"Wang is only making a suggestion as a government advisor. In fact, no document in our commission has made any remark about the possible new location of the Liulitun project," said a spokesman with the commission, who accepted an interview yesterday on the condition of anonymity.

The spokesman also said that different government institutions have different opinions on the issue of incineration.

The Beijing Environment Sanitation Group is said to keen on building incineration projects near the downtown area.

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Economic planning authorities have been reluctant to risk the capital's financial prospects because of the environmental issue, the spokesman said.

But residents of Liulitun in Haidian district were feeling jubilant that the incinerator issue looked to be over in their neighborhood.

"This is great news," said Zhao Yong, a resident and campaigner against the incinerator planned for Liulitun.

"There was only speculation before that authorities were looking for better locations for incineration projects. Now, we hope the authorities can make our request - for environmental concerns to be addressed - become a reality."