Protests over PX plants not endgame

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-10-29 0:20:04

The government of Ningbo, Zhejiang Province officially announced the suspension of a PX project yesterday. This concession was achieved through a way familiar to the public that is by forcing the government to back down through protests.

Some claim the people in Ningbo scored a victory. But we hold that when deciding a heavy chemical project through such protests, there is no winner but the whole country loses.

It's comforting that the protests this time were resolved in a relatively peaceful manner, which demonstrates that both officials and the public have come a long way. But the inadequate communication and the absence of effective interaction between the two reveals that in many places, local governments are often at a loss on what to do when facing a major public crisis.

China's growing middle class has a strong awareness of environmental protection and is growingly increasingly concerned about their immediate interests. Coupled with the fact that environmental panic often crops up, it is no easy matter for anybody to accept a chemical factory being built near their homes.

Some netizens hold that earlier communication and a more legitimate way of handling the project would have erased this entire predicament. This seems very reasonable, but things aren't so simple. Another camp thinks heavy chemical projects should be transferred to less-developed regions inland, But take the example of Shifang, where local protests erupted due to a molybdenum copper plant project. Shifang is less developed than Ningbo but people there were no more willing to accept the prospect of a heavy polluting plant on their doorstep.  

The establishment of heavy chemical projects has reached a deadlock. The grass roots see the projects as great scourges, also deterring the authorities. Under the current situation, the following things deserve special attention.

Protests need to be prevented from influencing the projects already under operation. Local governments should take precautions before it's too late. The introduction of new PX projects should be stopped. It is very likely that any new project would meet with protests, worsening the industry's embarrassing position. The country should study how to establish heavy chemical projects under new circumstances.

An open, transparent, effective and legal procedure should be set up and new projects should only be started after winning support from most of the locals.

The protests against chemical projects are not political in nature. Therefore, when setting up new regulations, the authorities should pay enough attention to compensation for locals. As long as their interests are properly protected, public attitudes toward heavy chemical programs will change. 

Posted in: Editorial

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