By Wei Liming
Published: 2008-02-28

From Nation, page 14, issue no. 356, Feb 25
Original article: [Chinese]
Translated by Ren Jie

Legislators from Guangdong province have lobbied for a five billion dollar oil refinery and petrochemical plant to be shelved due to eco-concerns.

The project – a joint-venture between Sinopec and Kuwait National Petroleum Company said to be the largest local-foreign investment in China – has been planned to be built in Nansha, a wetland-rich area near Guangzhou city. The wetlands are home to thousands of species of birds and mangroves.

Preparations for its construction appeared to have started before final approval, claimed Guangdong province People's Congress member Liu Yiling, who said the project had yet to obtain the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval.

Moreover, she added, the project was against local regulations, namely one that designated Nansha as an ecologically fragile area unsuitable for highly polluting industries.

Liu and 13 other legislators had jointly submitted a memorandum urging for the project to be put on hold at the province's Political Consultative Conference held at the end of January. The memorandum came about after the legislators found out that the project had been slated as a priority project under the province's 2008 Economic and Social Development Program.

"The project is located in the centre of the Pearl River Delta, thus will have far reaching impacts on surrounding cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhongshan, Dongguan, and even Hong Kong," claimed Liu, stressing that it would aggravate air and water pollution in the region.

Liu is also the director of the Guangdong Environment Protection Center, and a member of the of National People's Congress Environment and Resources Committee.

Some officials, however, disagreed with the pollution concern. Director of Guangdong's Development and Reform Committee Pan Jianguo said that the emission assessment for this project would follow the highest international standards. The deputy director of Nansha district, Liu Jianwe, also believed the project would not bring air pollution in Guangzhou. He said vegetation surrounding the project area would absorb air pollution.

Their reassurances did not smooth Liu's apprehensions, however. She said the surrounding forests could not solve any pollution problems on their own--only with green technology could it be mitigated.

On January first, Guangzhou's Development and Reform Commission published a notice that Nansha Petrochemical Base would possibly bring water, air, and solid waste as well as do ecological damage. It resolved to deal with the problem by using advanced equipment according to international standards to reduce pollution levels.

The central government decided to base the project in Guangdong after the province experienced its most serious oil shortage in history in 2005. Local government began inviting public bids for the land in January 2007.

Coordinated by Sinopec and the Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), it would replace the Shell Petrochemicals' Huizhou project as the biggest joint venture project in China. It is planned to have 12 million tons of petroleum refining capability per year.

Industry insiders claimed the investment for the project would bring in 90 billion dollars in returns. With the plant in Guangzhou, the income of petrochemical manufacturing industry would reach 800 billion yuan in 2020.

Nansha in southern Guangdong stands at the crossroads of the Pearl River delta, a nexus between other delta cities and Hong Kong and Macao through Nansha harbor and the Jingzhu Expressway.