China MEP to restrict the construction of chemical plants and launch a nationwide inspection

16 Sept 2011, “China will limit the construction and expansion of chemical plants and launch a nationwide safety campaign to target all enterprises involved in the production and use of hazardous chemicals”, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection (MEP) Mr Zhang Lijun announced on 15 Sept 2011 at a meeting held in Beijing.

“The MEP will no longer accept applications for any new projects related to the production and storage of hazardous chemicals outside industrial parks from 15 Sept”, said Mr Zhang. Under Chinese laws, without an environmental impact assessment and official approval from MEP, a factory cannot be built.

Mr Zhang did not say when the ministry will accept applications again but admitted that the country faced worsening chemical pollution. "Environmental accidents involving toxic chemicals are on the rise, posing a grave threat to public safety and social stability. Since January last year, the ministry has dealt with 239 environmental emergencies caused by chemical spills, some of which threatened water safety”, he said.

“The country would raise the environmental standards of chemical plants and tighten penalties and fines on chemical factory owners who break the law”, said Mr Zhang. The ministry would give stricter punishments to those who build the plants without environmental approval and the factories which are put into operation without an examination of their pollution control measures.

In wake of several serious chemical pollution incidents, the ministry will start a nationwide inspection campaign of the producers of hazardous chemicals who have obtained operating license for production. The inspection campaign is to be concluded by the end of this year.

The authorities will focus on chemical plants located along the rivers, lakes and the coast. A 2010 survey of 43,510 enterprises in the petrochemicals, chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries found that 86.2 percent were located in the basin areas of China's major rivers.

This campaign is one of many recent moves taken by Chinese authorities to strengthen the management of chemicals in China. On 19 June 2011, the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) announced that they would prioritize and strengthen inspections to companies who manufacture, store, sell or use chemicals contained in the list of hazardous chemicals for priority management in China. Chemical companies doing businesses in/with China shall pay more attention to regulatory compliance as the current phenomenon of weak enforcement of chemical legislation in China is changing right now.



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