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Volume 86 Issue 42 | p. 12 | News of The Week
Issue Date: October 20, 2008

Pollution In China

Residents oppose another p-xylene project
Department: Business | Collection: Climate Change
News Channels: Environmental SCENE

Opposition to a plan to build a petrochemical complex equipped with an aromatics unit is mounting—in cyberspace so far—in Taizhou, an industrial city south of Shanghai. Taizhou is home to numerous chemical plants and already suffers from heavy pollution.

Although the project is still in the early stages of planning, city residents have posted numerous protests on electronic bulletin boards. Many of the messages on the most active site (bbs.taizhou.com) call on local government officials to extensively consult the public before construction starts.

Taizhou residents are particularly incensed that the multi-billion-dollar project will include a 2.4 million-metric-ton-per-year plant for p-xylene, a polyester raw material. Other components of the complex, according to the Chinese media, are an oil refinery and a 2.4 million-metric-ton ethylene unit. None of the three firms reported to be behind the project—PetroChina, its parent China National Oil Corp., and Shell—have confirmed their involvement.

This is the third project featuring a p-xylene unit to be challenged in China in the past two years over health and pollution concerns. In coastal Xiamen, middle-class protesters stopped the planned construction of a p-xylene unit near the city center last year (C&EN, June 11, 2007, page 17). And in March, violent protests against a p-xylene unit took place in Fujian province (C&EN, March 10, page 15).

Kenji Otsuka, an expert in Chinese rural development at the Institute of Developing Economies, in Chiba, Japan, figures that Taizhou officials remain optimistic about the project's success. But from what has happened in other parts of China, he says, the project could be abandoned if online protests turn into real ones.

 
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