Public opposes Xiamen chemical plant

By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-30 09:49
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Experts and the public have expressed strong concern over the possible environmental impact of the construction of a massive chemical plant in Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province, Outlook Weekly reported yesterday.

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The Taiwan-funded Xianglu Group has begun building the plant, which will have an annual output of 800,000 tons of p-Xylene, in the Haicang District of the city.

The project has stirred huge controversy due to its location, just 7 km from the city center and only 1.5 km from the nearest residential area.

In a bid to garner support for their cause, residents have been forwarding a popular text message to friends and family asking them to join in their protest against the new plant, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported yesterday.

The message said the project was like an "A-bomb" the newspaper said.

Zhao Yufen, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has proposed the plant be relocated to avoid the possible threat of pollution in the future.

Led by Zhao, who is also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body, 105 political advisors submitted a suggestion during the annual session of the CPPCC in March asking for the plant to be relocated.

"It is against international conventions to build such a large-scale chemical plant so close to a residential area," Zhao said, adding that it would normally be located at least 100 km from the nearest urban area for safety reasons.

"P-Xylene is highly toxic and carcinogenic", Zhao said.

Despite people's concerns, the local environment bureau told local media on Monday that the project had passed an environmental pre-evaluation test, as its pollutant discharge level was just half the national standard.

"But whatever preventive measures are taken, there is always the possibility of an accident happening," Zhao said, citing a chemical plant blast in 2005 in Jilin, Jilin Province, which led to about 100 tons of toxic benzene compounds being spilled into the river.

"We are not against the project, but just say its location should be changed," Zhao said.

Xiamen is a coastal city known for its pleasant climate and clean environment. It is not suitable for a large-scale chemical plant, she said.

In an interview with China Business News, Zhao said that economic considerations might be behind the support from the local government.

"The project and its second phase are expected to add 80 billion yuan to Xiamen'sGDP, which would be hard to resist for a city that posted figures of 112 billion yuan for the whole of last year," she said.