The local government of Xiamen Wednesday began inviting citizens
to submit their opinions on the future of a controversial chemical
plant project that was suspended earlier this year following
persistent public protests over the threat of pollution.
Members of the public have been told they can register their
suggestions over the next ten days via email, post or telephone
with the municipal government or the Beijing-based Chinese Research
Academy of Environmental Sciences that is in charge of an
assessment of the environmental impacts of the project.
"We'll treat the opinions and suggestions collected through
public participation in an objective, fair and comprehensive way,"
said Li Yanwu, director of the academy's center for environmental
assessment, at a press conference held in the southeastern port
"As to whether a suggestion is accepted or not, we will give
explanations and include some of those into our newly completed
report on the environmental assessment of the chemical project,"
The Xiamen authorities put the polluting and potentially
dangerous chemical project, known as the PX (paraxylene) plant in
the city's Haicang District, 16 kilometers from the city center, on
hold on May 30 after coming under immense pressure from citizens
virulently opposed to the project.
On June 7, the Xiamen municipal government announced that the
construction of the chemical project would rest on an environmental
A month later, the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental
Sciences was entrusted by the Xiamen municipal government with the
assessment task. Li and his colleagues finished the report late
According to an abbreviated version of the report posted on the
official website of the municipal government, experts concluded
that the southern area of Haicang District, where the PX plant was
originally planned to be located, is too small and inadequate for
the diffusion of atmospheric pollution.
The local government had set two targets for the southern part
of Haicang: to develop the area into a sub-center of the city and
to create an industrial zone focused on the chemical industry.
However, according to the environmental assessment report, urban
planners are advised to choose one or the other, but not both.
If the city government's priority is the first target, then the
area is unsuitable for the development of the chemical industry,
the report says. If the latter, a number of residential buildings
should be demolished, citizens should be relocated and strict
controls over the chemical plants should be imposed, it
But news that members of the public are encouraged to submit
their opinions has failed to appease citizens of Xiamen and the
majority of those interviewed by Xinhua remained opposed to the
"I will use legal channels, such as hotlines or email addresses
provided by the government, to express my opposition," said a
citizen surnamed Wu in his 30s.
"The project is no good for the environment or people's health,
" the Internet cafe owner said.
"Xiamen has long been well known for its beautiful scenery and
as one of the most livable cities in China. I don't want to see it
become an industrial zone or a large chemical plant set up here,"
said a female logistics company clerk surnamed Lin, 26.
The 10.8-billion-yuan (about 1.4 billion U.S. dollars) project
by Tenglong Aromatic PX (Xiamen) Co. Ltd. is expected to produce
800,000 tons of paraxylene and generate revenues of 80 billion yuan
(10.77 billion U.S. dollars) a year.
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 say it can cause fetus abnormalities.
"We encourage public participation in the environmental
assessment of the project with a view to ensuring a harmonious and
sustainable development for the southern area of Haicang District
in the future," said Xie Haisheng, director of the office of
Xiamen's environmental assessment leading group for overall urban
"Public participation is an important step in the environmental
assessment of urban planning and also an important way to achieve
objectivity and fairness in this regard," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency December 6, 2007)