Improve communication regarding petrochemical projects

Updated: 2014-06-09 09:05

By Li Yang(

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Environmental protection departments and local governments should take the main responsibility for the public’s fierce opposition to petrochemical projects, says an article in China Business News. Excerpts:

Premier Li Keqiang presided over a meeting of the State Council on Wednesday to improve the planning and environmental protection of China’s petrochemical industry.

This is a direct, if not timely, response to public needs as well as a series of incidents related to this industry.

The construction of some petrochemical projects in Xiamen, Kunming and Maoming has met wide and strong opposition from local citizens in the past year. Accidents at State-owned petrochemical factories in Dalian, Qingdao and Lanzhou have caused serious environmental pollution.

Petrochemical projects can effectively boost local economic growth, which helps promote local officials to higher ranks. But in the aforementioned cases, local governments nodded to the petrochemical companies before winning the support of local residents. The environmental protection agencies took the side of the governments as well.

The absence of public participation, communication and environmental assessments make these big projects “time bombs” of public anger and polluting accidents.

The central government should make it compulsory that petrochemical projects go through strict environmental assessment procedures, and the location of the factories must win the support of local residents. No projects should be started before obtaining the approval of the environmental watchdogs and the people.

There should also be a compensation and indemnity mechanism for local people relating to the petrochemical projects.

The petrochemical industry is important for the national economy. No one wants to demonize it. Local governments should reflect on the reasons why the people oppose these projects so strongly.