One year ago, a news program in China Central Television broadcasted a report titled “School that should never been built”.
It is a well-known high school in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province in China. The School moved its campus from the city centre to the current one in 2015. After several months schooling since September, 2015, more than 70% students were found to have physical problems like erythema, peeling, coughing and nosebleeding. The Paper reported on the incident early in 2016 but received no wide attention until April, 2016.
Last August, the government issued investigation results which claims that the environment around School meets the lawful standards. This is not convincing to the public. Sometimes, what we see and smell are closer to truth than scientific reports. Later this January, Friends of Nature, an NGO was notified to fail in its public interest litigation for this incident.
The decision was made based on the fact that local government has started helping with the land remediation and risks have been kept under control. Along with the decision, the NGO was ordered to pay for a litigation fee of 1.89 million Chinese yuan. It is a whopping price for any non-profit organization.
Friends of Nature is planning to appeal to a higher court. Many law scholars also stand on the NGO’s side. Faced with NGOs, which are currently disadvantaged groups in the society, the court should take social impacts into consideration rather than to be absolutely neutral.
Besides that, the court’s decision does not comply with our nation’s consistent policy of “whoever causes pollution is responsible for its treatment“. Three chemical enterprises severely polluted water and soil by dumping and burying chemical wastes, then they should be responsible. At least, either law or the government should make them pay, rather than using people’s money (taxes) for damages not caused by the public.
This event reminded me of the movie Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts. The movie features the real historic event of Hinkley groundwater contamination. Erin helped local people win the lawsuit and financial compensation in the end. Her compassion and persistence is a determining factor.
As for our NGO, I am hoping the same thing could happen. I hope this event would become a milestone in the history of resoloving environmental problems through law.
More importantly, harm done can never be undone. Think about residents in Hinkley in the movie and think about the students in Changzhou. Hope no more things like these happen.