Villagers ask for compensation over oil leak

By Wang Huazhong (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-09-14 08:21
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Villagers ask for compensation over oil leak

A fisherman displays cultured sea snails polluted by the oil pipeline explosion on July 16 in Dalian, a port city in Northeast China's Liaoning province, in this file photo taken on July 20. [Provided to China Daily]

DALIAN - Shao Delian, head of Hezuizi village in Dalian, believed that, if local fishermen just waited, they would never receive compensation from the State-owned oil giant whose facility leaked 10,000 tons of oil offshore two months ago.

So, earlier this month Shao took it upon himself to collect signatures and red fingerprints from most of the 100 households in the village and traveled to Beijing to petition for "help".

On July 16, two pipelines, owned by China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), exploded and leaked over 10,000 tons of crude oil into the sea off the major Northeastern Chinese port of Dalian.

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According to Shao, his village, whose inhabitants earn 90 percent of their income from aquaculture and fishing, faces a loss of 50 million yuan ($7.39 million) this year.

The oysters were largely killed, the fish contaminated and Japanese customers canceled all orders for local algae, he said.

"It has been two months and we didn't see the city government taking any action, so I had to turn to Beijing," the 63-year-old man told China Daily on Monday.

Shao said the villagers were not impatient and were aware that it could take two years, possibly longer, to comprehensively assess and compensate them for their losses.

"We need the local government to confirm that it has begun to assess our losses," he said. "It is our only hope, since we rely solely on aquaculture and fishing."

Requests for compensation by fishermen and aquaculture farmers like Shao have previously been rejected, first on Aug 17 by the district government of the city's bonded area, then on Aug 22 by the government of the city's development zone.

"We were so disappointed by the governments' attitude," Shao said, pointing out that the government was quick to act after a smaller spill from a Portuguese oil tanker five years ago, helping villagers collect evidence for the damage to be assessed and enlisting law firms for legal advice.

After the Dalian government's office in Beijing mediated on his behalf, Shao met Lu Haijun, a letters and visits (petition) official of the State-owned corporation, in Beijing on Sept 2.

Following his meeting, Shao said he was told CNPC will pay for all the losses, as long as the Dalian government presents scientific evidence of the damage.

However, the city government's publicity department told China Daily on Sunday: "It is the central authorities' job, like the Ministry of Environment Protection and the State Administration of Work Safety, to assess the economic and environmental damage from the accident."

Yang Ailun, a spokeswoman for Green Peace China, described the deadlock as "playing kick ball".

In other oil spills that have taken place across the world, she said the normal practice is for the responsible party, in this case the oil corporation, to set up an emergency fund to compensate the most needy and address urgent issues straight away.

Green Peace China previously suggested that CNPC immediately establish a fund of $100 million and advised the local government to engage independent parties to act as claims administrators.

The Beijing-based Science and Technology Daily reported on Aug 1 that 11,227 tons, or 92 percent, of the oil from the spill had been recovered by July 29.

The Ministry of Environment Protection is conducting an investigation into the spill, the results of which have yet to be released, Century Weekly reported.