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Toxic residues keep China quake victims from their homes


Beijing : Several cities and villages built in China’s Sichuan province for victims of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake are ghost towns because no one wants to live next to the mountains of dangerous residues piled up there by a chemical plant, Greenpeace said.

Those who do live next to those slag heaps of toxic phosphogypsum complain that they “feel pain” when they drink water from the area and notice a general decline in their health.

The ghost towns – at least eight are empty residential areas – are only the tip of the iceberg of what, according to Greenpeace’s Lang Xiyu, is “an overblown phosphate fertilizer industry, producing far more fertilizer than needed”.

“China has now accumulated at least 300 million tonnes of phosphogypsum, or more than 200 kg for every citizen in China,” Lang said Tuesday.

China is the world’s biggest manufacturer of phosphates, used mainly as fertilizer and which have caused environmental problems particularly in the southern half of the country, according to the Greenpeace study, prepared after three months of field research in 2012.

Sichuan, where more than 90,000 people died in the 2008 earthquake, is also the area most affected by this pollution, one more case in a country that suffers a grave environmental degradation from its rapid and at times unregulated industrialization.