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Open forum held to air views on PX plant
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Fifty-two of the 57 speakers at a public forum Thursday opposed the development of a chemical plant in the city of Xiamen, Fujian Province.

Provincial authorities had invited residents to share their views and give suggestions on the proposed development of the plant in Haicang district.

A further 42 participants will get the chance to voice their views today.

Some of those who opposed the scheme are believed to either own or have plans to buy an apartment in Haicang.

They argued that Xiamen has long been known for its beautiful scenery and for being one of the most livable cities in China.

Other representatives said the government should find a way to balance the economic development of the area with environmental concerns.

The authorities put the paraxylene (PX) plant, which was to be built 16 km from the city center, on hold in May after coming under pressure from locals opposed the project.

Paraxylene is a highly polluting, cancer-causing petrochemical used to make purified terephthalic acid, a raw material for producing polyester film, packaging resin and fabrics. Health experts have also said it can cause fetus abnormalities.

The 10.8 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) plant for the Tenglong Aromatic PX (Xiamen) Co Ltd was expected to produce 800,000 tons of paraxylene and add about 80 billion yuan a year to the local economy.

The authorities started soliciting opinions from the public following the publication last Wednesday of an environmental assessment report by experts from the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES).

It said public participation was an important step in the environmental assessment of urban planning.

The CRAES report advised Xiamen's urban planners to choose between developing Haicang district into a sub-center of the city or creating an industrial zone focused on the chemical industry.

It also indicated that creating an industrial zone would require demolishing a number of houses, relocating residents and conducting strict safety controls over the chemical plant.

Participants in the forum were chosen by lottery on Tuesday, under the supervision of the Xiamen notary office, from the 624 people who registered online or by calling a hotline number.

A further 100 people were selected as alternative representatives. More than 100 people were disqualified for providing invalid ID numbers, the local government website stated.

(China Daily December 15, 2007)

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