Residents of a Chinese "cancer village" have scored a rare victory against one of the heavily polluting companies that has laid waste to their country's environment.
The Fujian Solid Waste Disposal Company set up shop in Fujian province's Qingpuling village in 2000 and specialised in incinerating medical waste from Fuzhou, the regional capital.
However, improper disposal techniques resulted in an environmental catastrophe as the plant pumped toxic emissions into the air.
Local streams turned black, trees began to die, and a spate of suspicious cancer cases swept through at least eight households.
Liu Jinmei, a Beijing-based environmental lawyer who took up the villagers' cause, said that while it had not been possible to prove a direct link between their illnesses, including cancer, and the pollution, the risk to public health was undeniable.
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"The farmland is near the plant, so the dust and ash coming from the incineration falls there, as well as contaminating the nearby streams used for irrigation," she said. "Villagers would get red rashes on their skin when it came into contact with water from the streams."
Tired of seeing their community destroyed, 394 locals engaged a group of lawyers, including Ms Liu, and launched a legal challenge against the plant's owners in 2009.
A subsequent investigation found the area had been massively contaminated with dioxin, a highly toxic chemical compound.
Dioxin can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, liver problems and cancer, according to the World Health Organisation.
Last year China's environment ministry for the first time admitted to the existence of so-called "cancer villages", highly polluted communities where industrial development is blamed for a spike in the number of cancer cases.
Official statistics suggest there are at least 245 such villages across China but experts believe the true figure is far higher.
Ms Liu, the environmental lawyer, said Qingpuling's villagers could not yet claim complete victory despite the polluting company having been ordered to pay out six million yuan (?88,415) in compensation this week.
The compensation had yet to be paid and no concrete link had been established between the villagers' illnesses and the pollution, she noted.
However, an increasing number of successful lawsuits against polluters showed progress was being made in holding them to account for environmental crimes.
"We hope that, through media coverage, more and more environmental victims will stand up and speak out, using legal weapons to defend their rights," said Ms Liu.