Steel giant may be moved out of Beijing
Beijing is still considering moving the Shougang Group -- an iron and steel giant -- out of the city as part of its efforts to fight pollution.
Vice-Mayor Ji Lin made the remarks during an inspection of the factory's boiler emission on Monday, local media reported.
Ji, along with Wang Jirong, vice-director of the State Environmental Protection Administration,looked at the city's sky from a high-rise building on Monday morning and found the industrial base in Beijing's western suburbs, where Shougang Group is located, bristling with chimneys belching out thick clouds of smoke.
The industrial base is the largest polluter in Beijing and local residents have long suffered from dirty air, said officials with the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.
"The Shougang Group must be moved out of Beijing. The sooner the better. If not, the cost of pollution treatments will be much higher," said Wang.
"We should not take care of the interests of some heavy polluters at the expense of the overall health of more than 10 million people living in Beijing," Wang said.
The comments are the commitment to solving the long-debated topic of the relocation of the Shougang Group.
As early as 1999, a dozen deputies to Beijing's Municipal People's Congress, the city's top legislative body, said the Shougang Group must be moved because it heavily pollutes both air and groundwater.
Late last year, Lu Hao, another vice-mayor of Beijing, said the Shougang Group would be entirely moved out by 2012.
Lu's remarks were the first official statement on the subject.
However, top leaders of Shougang -- also know as Capital Iron and Steel -- expressed three major concerns over any proposed moves.
The first one is the huge cost of the removal which is estimated at 40 billion yuan (US$4.8 billion). The second is that Shougang's leaving would take away 2 billion yuan (US$240 million) of fiscal revenue each year, and would impact the city's industries. And the third one is unemployment, since the removal would cause nearly 100,000 employees to become jobless.
Although the relocation is a complicated task, Shougang has gradually moved part of its plants out of Beijing.
The construction of a steel production base of Shougang, in neighbouring Hebei Province, with an annual production of 2 million tons, was finished in October.
And Shougang also cut its annual production to 6 million tons from 8 million tons last year and plans to cut a further 2 million tons before 2008 in a bid to reduce emission.
Air pollution, which often shrouds Beijing in a soupy smog, is a key concern for decision makers.