Shanxi city shuts polluting factories

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 March, 2007, 12:00am

300 more on environmental watchdog's black list face closure

A city in Shanxi province has permanently cut power supplies to 162 polluting factories and plans to shut down about 300 more in the first half of this year in response to blacklisting by the central government's environmental watchdog.

But a city official said the drastic measure was having a heavy impact on the local economy and there was no knowing how many closures it would take to satisfy the State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa).

Luliang , a mining city in coal-rich Shanxi, was one of four cities which had their powers to approve new construction projects indefinitely suspended by Sepa in January for failing to take adequate measures against polluters.

The environmental watchdog said Luliang, along with Tangshan in Hebei province , Liupanshui in Guizhou and Laiwu in Shandong , were being penalised for supporting projects that violated environmental laws and caused serious pollution.

The four cities responded by closing down facilities blacklisted by the administration, but only Laiwu has since been allowed to resume approving new projects.

A Luliang environmental protection bureau official said the suspension had forced the city to call a halt to several hundred projects, with a combined value of more than 200 billion yuan.'[The order] has not only affected new factories and mines and department stores and apartment buildings, it even means the construction of our university and airport cannot be started,' the official said.

The Luliang official said the bureau had been reporting progress to Beijing twice a month since January, but he claimed that Sepa had not responded.

'We don't know when they will lift the ban,' he said. 'We can only keep on closing down factories until [Sepa] is pleased one day.'

Most of the facilities shut down were small and medium-sized operations in the coking, chemical and smelting industries. Their total annual output was about 1.6 billion yuan, or 20 per cent of the city's gross domestic product last year, according to the official.

He said the shutdown had affected more than 70,000 residents in the city. Each worker's wages supports about four other family members, causing a ripple effect of poverty.

He said more than 200 people, including factory owners, workers and their family members, had protested at the entrance of the city environmental protection bureau a few days ago in opposition to the power cuts.

There are more than 1,700 polluting factories in Luliang and about half of them are small or medium-sized enterprises. It has more than three million residents and accounts for half of Shanxi's population living in poverty.

'It is taking a step backwards to march a step forwards,' the official said.

A Sepa spokesman could not be reached for comment yesterday on the crackdown.