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Polluting Plants to Be Relocated
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Nine major industrial plants in the southern city of Guangzhou will be removed from the city's urban center by 2010 as part of an anti-pollution drive, sources with the Guangzhou environmental protection department said recently.

The move comes after Guangzhou Hoton Chemical (Group) Co Ltd, one of the key raw chemical production bases in the city, was blacklisted by the national environmental protection watchdog earlier this month for causing "serious problems," including potentially excessive pollution.

The nine enterprises, which include the Hoton company, were set up in the area when it was an industrial zone, but more residential areas have since been created there in the wake of urban expansion.

The Hoton firm, which was set up in 1956, now has more than 12,000 people living within a 500-meter radius of the plant and 100,000 residents within a 1,500-meter radius.

The eastern part of Guangzhou, where Hoton is located, has developed into one of the city's key business and residential centers.

"A decade ago, we did not expect that the area around our company would have so many people living in it," said Kuang Chaochun, managing director of Hoton.

He claimed the company has been considering relocating out of the area since 2002. He stressed the firm was conscious of the need to protect the local environment.

"We attach great importance to production safety. We have an environmental protection office to inspect and examine environmental effects and deal with possible production problems," Kuang said in an interview with China Daily.

However, the company was one of 11 chemical plants named by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) in a nationwide survey of 78 factories that posed serious environmental threats and potential dangers.

Sources with SEPA said that Hoton did not have any warning mechanisms or facilities to deal with possible chemical spills. SEPA has strongly suggested that the plant be moved out of the residential area.

"A chemical spill, together with other environmental threats, would lead to a disaster not only for the chemical plant, but for residents. So, it is necessary to remove the plant out of the residential areas," said an official surnamed Huang, with the Guangzhou Environmental Bureau.

Although Hoton hasn't been linked to any environmental incidents since its establishment, the company will still be moved out of the residential area by 2008, according to Huang.

Along with the relocation plan for the nine industrial plants, the local government is conducting a new round of inspections of the city's chemical factories that will last until June.

"Any plants found to have potential dangers or posing great serious environmental threats would be asked to install or upgrade the required facilities," Huang said.

Apart from the inspection program, Zhang Jinmeng, a professor from South China University of Technology, said the city needed to modify its industrial structure in any case to prevent serious accidents.

According to Zhang, about half of the Guangzhou-based plants to be relocated specialize in chemical production and are located along the Pearl River, posing a severe threat to water supplies to the city.

Guangzhou's proposals to relocate chemical plants are in accordance with a national environmental campaign that was launched after last November's chemical spill in northeast China's Songhua River.

SEPA is supervising and launching national inspections of medium and large-sized enterprises along major rivers and their tributaries, especially chemical plants in water-source areas or densely populated regions.

(China Daily February 21, 2006)

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