China Says Xiamen Chemical Plant May Be Scrapped

Millions of text messages from local residents may have doomed plans for paraxylene chemical plant.

BEIJING (AP) - China's environmental watchdog warned the southern coastal city of Xiamen on Thursday that it may have to reconsider plans for a chemical plant that were suspended after protests circulated by mobile phone over possible health dangers.
 
Pan Yue, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, said his agency was doing a new environmental assessment of the entire city that would include the paraxylene (PX) plant project that was halted last week following an uproar from local residents. He said Xiamen authorities had asked for a new assessment to be done.
 
''We hope the Xiamen government will make rational adjustments based on the findings of the environmental evaluation and try their best to adjust the current plan, which has residential areas in close proximity to the project,'' Pan said.
 
''If they fail to meet the requirements determined by the environmental evaluation, heavy chemical projects including the PX project will be reconsidered,'' Pan was quoted as saying in a statement on the agency's Web site.
 
The suspension last week of the project came after residents sent nearly 1 million text messages to friends and family, urging the government to renounce plans to build the US$1.4 billion (euro1.04 billion) paraxylene plant. A widely circulated message likened the facility to ''an atomic bomb in Xiamen.''
 
Paraxylene is used to make plastics, polyester and film, and can damage the central nervous system or even cause death.
 
The plant was due to be located 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the center of Xiamen, a center for Taiwanese and Hong Kong investment. The nearest homes were some 1,500 meters (one mile) away, according to news reports.
 
Communist leaders, long indifferent to the environmental cost of China's economic boom, have become more sensitive to pollution complaints after accidents that contaminated rivers, disrupting water supplies to major cities. Farmers throughout the country have protested pollution that has tainted water supplies and ruined farmland.
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