A massive protest triggered cancellation of a controversial copper smelter local communities feared would lead to air pollution, reports The New York Times. Outcry also led to the release of jailed protesters who had demonstrated against the project.
The smelter, which would have cost $1.6 billion, had been pushed by the local government as part of a plan to boost the economy in an area devastated by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. But the government announced Wednesday the project would not proceed following “large and sometimes violent demonstrations”, according to the report. In recent days the protests had gone viral on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging service, becoming the most-searched term on Tuesday and Wednesday morning “before abruptly disappearing entirely from the list of frequently searched terms in a possible sign of censorship.” Several posts referring to the protest also disappeared.
The New York Times noted that similar protests stopped a coal-fired power plant in Haimen last year.
Environmental damage takes a heavy toll in China. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimates total annual damage due to environmental degradation at 9 percent of China’s GDP, outpacing its economic growth rate in some years.