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Plant safe, officials tell protesting villagers

(Shanghai Daily)

09:02, October 25, 2012

A DISTRICT government in the east China city of Ningbo yesterday assured the public that a petrochemical plant it plans to expand meets "the most stringent discharge standards," two days after local villagers protested over pollution concerns.

Zhenhai District said it would keep relocating residents who live near the plant after 200 residents took to the streets to protest over possible health hazards.

The new complex is planned to be built in the Ningbo Petrochemical Economic and Technical Development Zone in the district with a combined investment of nearly 55.8 billion yuan (US$8.8 billion).

Villagers gathered in the district government building on Monday and displayed banners saying, "We want to survive."

The plant, run by Zhenhai Refining & Chemical, is a producer of paraxylene, or PX, a carcinogenic petrochemical used to create raw materials for polyester film, packaging resin and fabrics. Health experts say it also can cause fetal abnormalities.

The Zhenhai government has spent 6.4 billion yuan building 13 residential complexes and 10 shelters, totaling 2 million square meters, for relocated villagers. More than 9,800 households have moved to their new homes. The protesting villagers, however, have not yet been relocated.

During the protest, some villagers blocked an intersection, but they left after the local government issued a written response promising to address their problems.

The local government said, however, that those who stirred up public fury to disturb the social order would be punished.

The district has spent 3.6 billion yuan to reduce pollution from the plant, according to local authorities.

But Internet users pointed out that the project violates the rules because the plant was established only 15.5 kilometers away from the downtown while it should have been set up 100 kilometers away.

Similar protests have erupted in recent years. In 2007, thousands of people in southeast China's city of Xiamen protested the construction of a PX plant over health concerns. The plant was eventually relocated.

Last year, authorities in Dalian in northeast China ordered a PX chemical plant shut down after local residents took to the streets to demand that the plant be relocated.
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