Tens of thousands of residents in China’s southern Guandong Province gathered in the streets yesterday, occupying a highway to demonstrate against the development of a new coal plant near Shantou city. The residents say existing coal plants in the area are fouling local air and water, and are making people sick.
Each year, protests spring up to counter the construction of dirty coal plants. But this appears to be the biggest yet. Officials now say they will abandon plans to build a new coal plant in the area. Two people were reportedly killed in clashes with police, but the government is denying those reports.
China’s coal use has exploded over the last few decades. Since 1980, coal consumption in China has grown 500%, and now represents three quarters of consumption in Asia. That has coincided with a five-fold increase of lung cancer since 1970, now the leading cause of death in China. (Of course, an increase in smoking is also a huge contributor.)