May 5 (Bloomberg) -- China’s largest oil producer defended plans for a chemical plant in southwestern Sichuan province, saying it will improve air quality by providing higher-standard oil products and curbing car-emission pollutants.
China National Petroleum Corp. has “adopted various scientific measures” to ensure there won’t be any negative impact on the environment from the project near the provincial capital Chengdu, an unnamed spokesman in charge of environmental protection at the company said in an interview posted yesterday on Chinawestnews.net, a news portal affiliated with the Sichuan government.
Thousands of police officers and security staff were deployed in Chengdu yesterday after word spread on the Internet about a protest against the planned facility in Pengzhou, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the city, the Associated Press reported. In a separate demonstration yesterday in Kunming, the capital of neighboring Yunnan province, hundreds of people took to the streets to oppose the construction of another chemical plant planned by state-owned CNPC in nearby Anning, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Calls to the press offices of the Sichuan and Yunnan provincial governments weren’t answered today outside of normal working hours.
Opposition to CNPC’s plans underscores growing concern that industrial plants are damaging the environment and people’s health. Environmental issues have replaced land disputes as the main cause of social unrest in China, which now sees 30,000 to 50,000 so-called mass incidents every year, Chen Jiping, a former vice general secretary of the Communist Party’s Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs said in March.
Confrontation between local governments and residents over the construction of industrial projects is increasing. Last October, the eastern city of Ningbo halted plans to produce the chemical paraxylene at a plant run by state-owned China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., also known as Sinopec, after hundreds of residents clashed with police.
In July, the coastal city of Qidong scrapped a project that involved building a pipeline to discharge waste from a paper mill after thousands protested. The same month, the Shifang city government in Sichuan halted construction of a Sichuan Hongda Co. copper plant after police fired tear gas at demonstrators who said the project would pollute the environment.
The plant CNPC wants to build in Pengzhou will produce refined oil products and ethylene, according to the report on Chinawestnews.net. The project in Anning, Yunnan, will have annual production of 500,000 tonnes of paraxylene, a carcinogenic chemical used in the production of polyester film and fabrics, Xinhua said.
In a statement carried by Chinawestnews.net on May 3, CNPC said the plant in Pengzhou has been approved by the national environmental protection agency and the National Development and Reform Commission. Production won’t start until the project meets environmental protection standards, it said.
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