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Xiamen may relocate disputed chemical plant
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The Xiamen government in Fujain Province may relocate a halted US$1.41-billion chemical plant project as almost all speakers at two public hearings vented anger at the idea to restart the project in the coastal city.

The paraxylene plant may be relocated to the Gulei Peninsula in Zhangzhou, Fujian. Zhangzhou has a population of more than 4.5 million, Beijing News reported today.

The decision was said to have been reached one day after Xiamen's government held two public hearings to seek opinions on the project that was suspended earlier this year following persistent public protests.

A total of 107 people selected by lottery to represent the citizens of Xiamen attended the hearings on Thursday and Friday last week. Of them, 91 opposed the project, 15 voiced their support and one left without speaking.

About 80 lawmakers and political advisers also attended – 15 addressed the forum and 14 spoke against the government's plan to build the plant.

But a senior official of Fujian cast doubt on the possible relocation, only saying that the paraxylene project was still being discussed, the report said.

However, Zhu Qing, director of Fujian's Information Office, did not deny the project might be moved to Zhangzhou, the report said.

Construction on the paraxylene plant in Xiamen's Haicang District was halted in June due to a public outcry over pollution and health issues.

The southern part of Haicang District has been set up into a chemical zone, but the city plans to expand the zone into a residential area, which spurred residents in the eastern city to spread short messages calling for a boycott of the project as paraxylene is a dangerous material.

Paraxylene is a petrochemical used to make purified terephthalic acid, a raw material for producing polyester film, packaging resin and fabrics.

But it is also carcinogenic if exposed to humans. Health experts say it can cause fetus abnormalities.

The project, launched in Xiamen last year, was said to have the potential to bring the city 80-billion-yuan in industrial output annually upon completion.

The relocation of the project can go ahead only after it is approved by the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planning body, the report added.

(Shanghai Daily December 19, 2007)

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