China Orders Dangerous Chemical Producers Out of ‘Thickly Populated’ Areas

Author: Chen Na
Posted on: Caixin Global, December 7th, 2016
China has ordered hazardous chemical producers to move out of “densely populated” areas into dedicated industrial parks by the end of 2019, in the aftermath of a number of deadly accidents in recent years.
The State Council, China’s cabinet, issued a set of guidelines on Tuesday to control errant chemical manufacturers and dealers. Under the new rules, several government agencies, led by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, will push forward a plan to relocate hazardous chemical factories out of populous areas within the next three years.
In addition, government agencies will kick off a nationwide inspection this month to assess risks of hazardous chemicals during production, storage, transportation and waste management. Factories that cannot meet safety standards will be shut down, the cabinet said. The inspection is expected to run until March 2018.
Chemical factories have sprung up all across China amid the breakneck economic growth in the past two decades, but lax oversight has posed a threat to public safety. The regulations issued by the State Council said it was a response to “lessons learned” from a series of massive explosions in Tianjin in June 2015, which killed 173 people and caused 6.87 billion yuan ($971 million) in damage. The head of Ruihai International Logistics, which owned the chemical warehouse where the blasts occurred, was given a suspended death sentence in November for bribing officials to get storage permits.
The State Council ordered government agencies tasked with enforcing the rules to compile a list of “highly dangerous chemicals” by March 2018 and specifically mentions “strengthening regulations” on handling ammonium nitrate, nitrocellulose and sodium cyanide — among the hazardous and flammable chemicals linked to the fatal explosions at the Tianjin port.
But the document omitted other details such as criteria used to identify “densely populated” areas or what factories will qualify for relocation.
Mounting public opposition to building facilities dealing with chemicals and other dangerous materials near residential areas have also galvanized regulators to act.
City officials in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, have dropped a feasibility study on a nuclear waste recycling plant after local residents took to the streets in August. Thousands protested in a distant suburb of Shanghai in June 2015 after the city government announced plans build a chemical plant near their homes.

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