On the 11th of September 2020, an environmental public interest litigation was adjudicated upon by the Intermediate People’s Court of the city of Guangzhou. The case had been recently brought to court by the People’s Procuratorate of Guangzhou City, suing Li Yongqiang, owner of the Weijie Landfill. In its final judgement, the Intermediate People’s Court ordered a compensation of 100 million RMB (14,640,000 USD) to be paid for the environmental damages that Mr Li’s company has caused due to its inappropriate management of solid waste since 2007 in Huadu District, Guangzhou.
The investigations ordered by the court showed that Li Yongqiang has in actuality been the owner of the landfill company since the 11th of January 2007. In May 2007, Li represented the company in signing a land lease contract with the Sanlianzhu Lake Economic Cooperative of the town of Tanbu in Huadue District, Guangzhou. The contract stated that Li and his company would rent 400 mu (66.67 acres) of land north of the lake and deliver appropriately-treated waste to the land as fertilizer to plant trees. However, evidence shows that Li did not follow the contract. Instead, he ordered the company’s workers to simply dispose of untreated garbage and ash from the incineration of municipal solid waste on the rented land.
Before the court delivered its final judgement in September 2020, other institutions had already given Li and his company warnings and fines because of the pollution and environmental damage the untreated waste had caused the district. In 2016, several investigations from the Department of Environmental Protection in Huadu District found that the Weijie Landfill did not apply air pollution control equipment and solid waste management equipment to the waste treatment process. In addition, much of the solid waste and the ash were abandoned on the land after being treated, without further attendance. Data showed that the amount of waste disposed of reached nearly 248,000 tons.
In September 2019, the local government of Huadu District set up a working group and arranged a series of preliminary renovation projects dealing with the disposal of waste accumulated on the land. The total cost of environment restoration, estimated by the working group, is likely to exceed 100 million RMB (14,640,000 USD). The China Southern News reported that the whole space was a “garbage mountain” which was about the size of 17 football pitches, and workers had to climb for 40 minutes to reach the top of it.
The court commented that in more than ten years, the Weijie Landfill had not properly treated its garbage and had therefore caused huge damage to the environment and ecosystem on the rented land. The harm was done not only to the environment, but also to the public interest in Huadu District. Furthermore it won’t be possible to restore the damaged ecosystem in the near future, and this will surely have a lasting impact on the local community. While the compensation required may seem to be sky-high, this is however a valid judgement which demonstrates the attention that the local government has given to this case and its determination to strictly adopt measures to prevent pollution and environmental damage.