Controversy over planned paraxylene (PX) plant construction in Jiujiang, Jiangxi, China

Despite escalation of protests on many other sites of PX production, people in Jiujiang were targeted with an information campaign by the government that smoothed away opposition.


Description
Para-xylene is a common chemical used to manufacture polyester. The chemical seems to have a low toxicity and there are very few reports worldwide of environmental harm from PX. Despite this, "PX has become a common target for public protest in China since December 2007 when the government of Xiamen suspended the construction of an £882 million PX factory. Since then, PX projects have been halted in Dalian, Ningbo and Kunming as a result of public discontent".[1] A paraxylene (PX) plant in Jiujiang was proposed by the Jiujiang Petrochemical Corporation and got the first EIA published on 4 April, 2012. It was approved peacefully, due to the harmonious coexistence between local residents and the company. This was unusual though, as in other sites where PX plants have come up, citizens have vehemently protested. In fact, the State Environmental Protection Department believed that PX plant was a sensitive activity. As a precaution, national Ministry of Environmental Protection required Jiujiang Petrochemical Corporation to provide more public information. So, the company published an article in “Xunyang Evening News". Short after, on May 4th, under the impact of the controversy over planned paraxylene (PX) plant expansion in Kunming, a group of citizens started to consult the PX plant in Jiujiang. On May 6th, the Jiujiang News Forum appeared the first anti-PX article, titled "PX plant planned to settle in Jiujiang. The people of Jiujiang come to die", which wrote: "PX plants in Xiamen, Dalian, Ningbo and Kunming stopped, why has Jiujiang continued? Who wants it?" It has elicited a great deal of public attention and concern. On the 10th, articles about Jiujiang PX plant posted on Jiujiang News Forum get more than 23,000 hits and replies of 358 people. Residents announced a sit-in at municipal government building to protest against construction of paraxylene (PX) plant in Jiujiang on May 13th. At this critical moment, Jiujiang Petrochemical applied to the local government for emergency help. Jiujiang municipal Party committee and municipal government launched the emergency status for maintaining stability, which comprised of measures by police, propaganda department, environmental protection department, security department, etc. The municipal government collected information about hot topics and what citizens want to know, engendering more than 3000 copies of brochures. They also gave some propaganda reports to the crowd including teachers, Jiujiang primary and middle school students, streets, government officials and some network opinion leaders." On May 11th, Jiujiang Petrochemical Corporation invited six representatives, who are forum opinion leaders, to gain a further insight of PX plant. They made a brief introduction of the plant first and prepared authoritative expert assessment of the PX plant, informed by news reported by People's Daily, Guangming Daily and Xinhua News Agency for them also. After that, they visited the Jiujiang petrochemical production devices and the future place of PX plant. As a result of this government campaign, on May 13th, the day of proposed sit-in, only a dozen people came to the municipal government. Government workers invited them in and experts communicated with them until they all clearly understood the issue. This case saw a great participation of the scientific Chinese community. An article in Chemistry World says "While agreeing that PX is not particularly toxic, Lin Zhongxiang, a professor of fine chemicals at Nanjing Forestry University, says the movement to defend PX has gone to the other extreme.  ‘It might be true that in accordance with some indicators, PX is no more toxic than alcohol. But you cannot drink PX even though you can drink alcoholic beverages,’ says Lin, arguing that PX’s low toxicity is touted to support the political goal of clamping down on dissidents. He says that a better way to convince the public of the safety of PX plants is to let chemical industry leaders live next to their factories.". The article goes on observing that "what the public are opposing is not the science or the chemical itself, but the way plants are built and managed. He cites an explosion last year in the only PX plant built in recent years – the plant in Gulei Peninsula that was originally earmarked for Xiamen – as evidence that poor management is what people really fear. ‘The move to defend a definition is easy, but it is not so simple to find a real solution,’ [1]
Basic Data
NameControversy over planned paraxylene (PX) plant construction in Jiujiang, Jiangxi, China
CountryChina
ProvinceJiangxi
SiteJiujiang
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Chemical industries
Specific CommoditiesParaxylene
Project Details and Actors
Project Area (in hectares)6.5
Level of Investment (in USD)451,360,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population4,789,400(2013 Statistical Bulletin)
Start Date2012
Company Names or State EnterprisesJiujiang Petrochemical Corporation from China
Sinopec (China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation) from China
Relevant government actorsThe Jiujiang municipal government, the Jiujiang Environmental Protection Bureau, the Xunyang district, the Lushan district Management Bureau
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersLocal residents
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingNeighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationMedia based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Sit-in
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
OtherExposure to XP can have severe consequences, such as headache, fatigue, dizziness, listlessness, confusion, irritability. More infor here: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcsneng/neng0086.html
Outcome
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responsePropaganda campaign by the government and smoothing away of the protest
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Sources and Materials
Links

[1] Chemistry World, 17 April 2014 - Para-xylene plants face uphill struggle for acceptance in China
[click to view]

10 December 2009 - Sinopec signs agreement to expand Jiujiang refinery capacity
[click to view]

China Outlook - The PX Environmental Controversy: Erosion of Public Trust in China?
July 2, 2015
[click to view]

Other Documents

Para-xylene plants have been a contentious issue across China since 2007 © AFP/Getty Images Source: http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2014/04/para-xylene-px-plants-face-continued-opposition-china
[click to view]

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Last update11/04/2017
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