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China east city residents mobilize against chemical project

Posted by Author on October 13, 2008

By Chris Buckley, Reuters, Mon Oct 13, 2008-

BEIJING (Reuters) – Residents of a pollution-plagued Chinese city are mobilizing against a proposed chemical plant they fear will menace their health, with some urging marches against the scheme they say puts growth before the environment.

The plant proposed for Taizhou on the coast of east China’s Zhejiang province would make paraxylene (PX), a petrochemical used in polyester. Last year, protests against a PX plant planned for another coastal city, Xiamen, led to officials shelving it.

Now Taizhou residents, dismayed at the prospect of another chemical plant in an area already crowded with them, are threatening to re-enact those protests — and again bring into focus China’s struggle to balance growth with growing public anger over pollution and environmental threats.

“Resolutely oppose the PX project. As Taizhou residents, everyone must take some action,” said one message on a local website (http://bbs.taizhou.com) that has served as a platform for the opposition. “We want clear water and green hills, not toxic cash.”

China’s leaders have vowed to create a more “harmonious society” with cleaner air and water, even at the cost of slower economic growth. But this dispute threatens to become another battle pitting citizens against local officials whose priority often remains attracting fresh investment and revenue.

A website devoted to opposing the project (http://blog.sina.com.cn/baoweitaizhou) urges residents to “surround Taizhou.”

“Let the people speak out. Give them full rights to know and express themselves,” said the latest posting, dated Sunday. “Environmental problems are the world’s problems, and every individual’s.”

Internet messages also urge residents to send around text messages organizing mass “strolls” against the project.

EAGER OFFICIALS

Coastal Taizhou is a hub of chemical production and the big plant would be a feather in the cap for local officials.

“This is a rare historic opportunity, and a big project to enrich the people of Taizhou,” stated an official news report in April (http://tz.zj.gov.cn) that announced the plan.

“We must seize the initiative and go all out to win it.”

But residents and workers in Taizhou have long complained about water, air and fields putrid with pollution……. (more details from Reuters)

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