As we mentioned in previous blog, on April 17, 2016, China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast a brown field pollution incident in Changzhou city, China’s Jiangsu province, where nearly 500 middle school students were reported to fall ill allegedly due to toxins from a former pesticide manufacturing site adjacent to their new campus. Three days later, on April 20, Friends of Nature (FON), China’s oldest environmental NGO founded in 1993, submitted 15 Open Government Information (OGI) requests to Changzhou Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB)and its Xin Bei branch. On April 29, FON filed an environmental public interest litigation (EPIL) case at Changzhou City Intermediate People’s Court. China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (the Green Development Foundation), a well-known Chinese NGO dedicated to protect the environment and to conserve biodiversity in China, joined the litigation as co-plaintiff. The Beijing-based Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims at Chinese University of Political Science and Law and a local NGO in Jiangsu province, Lvse Jiangnan Public Environment Concerned Center, participated in the lawsuit as supporting entities.
The complaint requested the court to order the defendants, three chemical plants allegedly polluted the site illegally before relocation, to eliminate the pollution’s impact on the site and in the surrounding areas, bear the costs of remediating ecological environment, apologize to the public on national, provincial, and city news media, and be responsible for plaintiff’s litigation related expenses, including but not limited to pollution sample testing and analysis fees, damage assessment and identification fees, attorney fees, travel expenses, investigation and evidence collection fees, expert consultation fees, and litigation fees. Now Friends of Nature and the Green Development Foundation are waiting for the court to accept the case in order to move forward with the litigation.
Friends of Nature has long been committed to protecting Chinese environment, including fighting against soil pollution problems through both public interest litigation and policy advocacy activities. On October 9, 2011, FON, together with Chongqing Green Volunteer Union and Qujing EPB, filed an environmental public interest lawsuit after a heavy metal pollution incident in Qujing City, Yunnan province. This was the first time that a grassroots Chinese NGO successfully brought a public interest law suit to court as plaintiff. After five years, this case is still pending.
By the end of April 2016, Friends of Nature has filed 17 EPIL cases among which 12 cases have been accepted by the court. The subject of litigation covers soil pollution, air pollution, water pollution, ecological environment protection, and other environmental areas. FON has won the Nanping Illegal Mining Deforestation case, where the Fujian Province Supreme People’s Court sustained the decision of the Nanping Intermediate People’s Court in favor of FON and Fujian Green Home. In Guizhou Qingzhen air pollution case, FON reached settlement with the defendant, which required the defendant to bear the cost of ecological restoration. FON also settled in Shandong Dongying air pollution case where the defendant agreed to pay 3 million yuan (almost $470,000) for the environment remediation costs.