Taizhou still promoted for chemical plant

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 October, 2008, 12:00am

Taizhou authorities in Zhejiang Province are trying to promote the city as an ideal site for a mega chemical plant despite protests from residents who fear the project would pollute the environment and endanger health.

The project, with an investment of more than 60 billion yuan (HK$68 billion), will produce 34 million tonnes of refined oil, 2.4 million tonnes of ethylene and 2.4 million tonnes of paraxylene (PX) a year, according to Taizhou media.

But city residents have been putting postings online and sending mobile phone messages urging people to take action to ensure the project stays out of Taizhou. They said the government should not pursue economic gains at the expense of the environment.

'Paraxylene is highly dangerous and can cause cancer and deformed babies. It will bring a catastrophe if there is a leak,' one contributor said.

Many encouraged fellow residents to find inspiration in the massive, persistent protests that forced backers of a planned PX plant in Xiamen , Fujian Province , to find another site for their project last year.

Taizhou residents said the output of PX in the proposed Xiamen project was only one-third of the one drawn up for Taizhou.

But the Taizhou government hit back at the critics, calling the arguments ignorant and saying the project would greatly boost the city's economy.

Huang Zhiyuan , from the Taizhou Development and Reform Commission, which is in charge of the project, said the plant would not be dangerous and it was too early for residents to worry.

'There are PX projects everywhere in China. Why can you have one in Quanzhou but not Taizhou? You want GDP and revenue increases but how are [you] going to achieve that?' Mr Huang said.

He said the scheme was only in the planning stages and authorities had not signed any agreement with the plant, which will be a joint venture with the China National Petroleum Corp and Shell. 'The plant owner is still checking sites and we are engaged in planning environmental evaluations,' Mr Huang said.

'Even if we have an agreement with the company we will have to seek higher approval and do an environmental assessment, which concerns the plant's impact on the environment. It will be half a year to a year before we have a clear picture.'