Hainan Jinhai Pulp & Paper Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of the Indonesian paper making giant Sinar Mas Group-APP, officially started production Monday, amongst accusations and protests by environmental campaigners and researchers.
The plant, with a total investment of 9.5 billion yuan (US$1.15 billion), has an annual capacity of 1 million tons of pulp, the largest of its kind in the Chinese mainland.
"APP is promoting a manufacturing method that combines tree planting, pulp and paper-making. Our plant in Hainan Province will play an important role in promoting such a chain in China," said Yao Xusheng, chief executive officer of Sinar Mas Group-APP China.
However, its large capacity has sparked condemnation from environmental group Greenpeace.
Zhong Yu, director of Greenpeace's forestry protection division, told China Daily APP's Hainan plant needs to consume huge amounts of timber, and the eucalyptus forest APP is currently planting cannot meet its demand.
Zhong expressed concern that the timber shortage will "unavoidably" result in the illegal logging of forests containing trees from unique local gene pools.
Greenpeace has drawn its conclusions based on an on-the-spot investigation in Hainan recently.
Meanwhile, about 100 college students in Beijing yesterday promised to boycott APP products and called on others to do the same.
"The students have been following media reports saying that APP is involved in damaging forests in China," said student Jia Wenqiang.
Since last November, when Greenpeace criticized an APP project in southwest China's Yunnan Province
, claiming it could damage local forests, there have been frequent reports questioning APP's actions in the country.
APP argues it has a comprehensive plan for the long-term supply of raw materials needed for its production.
"The Hainan provincial government has approved planting 3.5 million mu (233,000 hectares) of eucalyptus. We plan to plant 600,000 mu (40,000 hectares) of new trees and log 600,000 mu (40,000 hectares) of grown trees each year."
APP says its long-term plans are to maintain 60 percent of the raw material from its own forest, 30 percent from purchases and 10 percent from imports.
The company said it would not log a single tree from the indigenous forest of Hainan.
APP rents land from local governments to plant trees, as well as buying trees from local farmers.
But according to Zhong, mass logging of original roadside trees in Hainan has already taken place along the Chengmai County section of an expressway in the province. Eucalyptus will be planted instead and become raw materials for the plant.
"Roadside trees are for the public, but eucalypti are solely for commercial purposes," she argued.
Xie Yan from the Chinese Academy of Sciences said roadside trees play an important role in water and soil preservation, while eucalyptus can cause harm to the local ecosystem.
Wang Rusong, a researcher from the academy's ecological research center, was quoted by the Beijing News as saying that APP's Hainan project has not undergone environmental impact assessment, as required by law.
Wei Liucheng, the governor of the province, which has received huge investment from APP, said it has not brought any pollution to or deteriorated the natural resources of Hainan.
"APP has input 2.4 billion yuan (US$292.68 million) toward environmental protection, accounting for about one-third of total investment in the factory," Wei said at the launch ceremony of the Jinhai plant.
But the governor admitted that its planting operations need to be improved.
(China Daily March 29, 2005)