Environment: Elderly farmer wins lawsuit against Qihua for contamination of land


In a story that parallels that of Erin Brockovich (an American legal clerk and environmental activist who despite her lack of formal education in law, was instrumental in building a case against a corporate giant in 1993), a Chinese farmer has won the first round of a lawsuit against Chinese state-owned chemical company Qihua Group for allegedly contaminating his land. Qihua is involved in the production of PVC and epoxy resin.

Wang Enlin, just like Brockovich, only studied until Grade 3 of primary education, had no formal training in law and spent 16 years studying law on his own to sue Qihua for dumping chemical waste on farmland in his village in Heilongjiang, according to People’s Daily Online.

The court file said that for 16 years, the production plant dumped an average of 20,000 tonnes of chemical waste each year on farmland that covered more than 70 acres.

The solid and liquid chemicals also contaminated the water in a nearby lake, the suit contended, adding that the villagers said the lake water had become sterile, tranquil and almost completely devoid of life.

Wang, who is in his 60s, is a farmer and was personally affected by the contamination. He said that during the Lunar New Year in 2001, the dumping of chemical waste by the plant was so excessive that liquid chemical waste flooded his house, along with those of many other villagers.

Wang then started studying law to fight for his rights and his fellow villagers. He met with strong resistance with Qihua and was unable to file the case until January 2015.

After the first hearing, the court ordered Qihua Group to get rid of the chemical waste on the land and pay compensation to the 55 families involved.

The report also says that Qihua, with assets exceeding 2 billion yuan, has filed an appeal of the court ruling. Founded in 1997, the company produces petrochemicals including PVC and epoxy resin.

Though Brokovich went on to more fame and fortune, through a movie made based on her story with the lead role played by popular actress Julia Roberts, Wang’s expectations are more humble. He has been quoted as having said the win, and not the compensation money, was more important plus he says he intends to continue the fight with the big corporation to stake his rights.


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