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Controversial chemical plant in SE China starts construction
Updated: 2009-05-09 00:00

ZHANGZHOU - Construction of a controversial chemical plant started Friday in Zhangzhou, in southeast China's Fujian Province, two years after work to build an identical plant was halted in another Fujian city nearly 100 km away.

Authorities in Xiamen, site of the first aborted factory plan, had to called off the project in 2007 after protests over potential pollution and health problems.

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Construction on the paraxylene (PX) plant sparked no protests or disputes in Gulei peninsula, which has a population of 135,000, an official with the local publicity department said, declining to give his name.

The peninsula is more than 100 km from Zhangzhou's urban area, which has a population of about one million.

The PX plant passed an environmental impact assessment by the Ministry of Environmental Protection in January, and gained approval from the National Development and Reform Commission two month later.

Officials in Zhangzhou have since then made every effort to convince residents that the plant's environmental impact would be under control.

They also put up bulletin boards in residential areas to brief villagers with basic knowledge of PX.

The plant involves a 13.8 billion yuan (US$2 billion) investment by the Tenglong Aromatic PX (Xiamen) Co. Ltd and has a designed annual production capacity of 800,000 tonnes.

The official told Xinhua that of the total, 830 million yuan will be earmarked for tackling environmental problems.

Construction on another massive chemical plant in the city also begun Friday. The plant will use PX to produce annually 1.5 million tonnes of purified terephthalic acid (PTA), commonly used in polyester coatings and resins.

Investment on the PTA project, including sewage treatment and environmental management facilities, totals 5 billion yuan.

The PX plant provoked heated protests by residents in Xiamen in May 2007. They argued it would be detrimental to the environment and public health.

After a series of public hearings and debates, the plant in the densely populated coastal city was suspended in May 2007, and in December 2007, it was announced that it would be built in Zhangzhou instead.