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Paraxylene protests highlight chinese textile sector’s environmental dilemma

Paraxylene protests highlight chinese textile sector’s environmental dilemma Source:
Date: 15-05-2013
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According to a report on China’s state media, around 10,000 people flooded into the streets of Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, on May 4 and 8, to protest against a proposed paraxlyene (PX)  project that could bring thousands of jobs and contribute billions of yuan to local GDP. PX is essential to the manufacturing of purified terephthalic acid (PTA), the main raw material for polyester

The protestors’ main concern is the environmental impact of PX production - one of their claims is that the process releases carcinogens into the environment, though there is no scientific evidence to support this assertion.

Local people also highlight that Yunnan is a major tourist attraction, owing to the natural beauty of the region, but it is already under threat from pollution.  Dianchi, the largest lake in Yunnan Province, has been affected by industrial affluent and domestic sewage in recent years.

It is not first time that proposed PX plants have been opposed. Protestors succeeded in halting the building of factories in Xiamen and Dalian in 2007 and 2011, respectively

At present, around 60% of PX supply in China is derived from imports. Large investment in local PTA capacity has increased demand for PX and left domestic producers of the petrochemical struggling to produce sufficient quantities.  The increased margins of profit obtainable from PX has spurred interest in expanding PX capacity. The government has been supportive of such projects, recognising the huge potential revenue involved.
A commentator for the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of Chinese Communist Party, recently stated that the challenge the government faces in helping local PTA manufacturers source PX supplies more easily is overcoming mistrust among the populace. He quoted data from China Customs showing the country’s reliance on imports and emphasized that most of the PX currently imported is from South Korea and Japan, nations with high standards of environmental protection. We are paying the costs for an old fashioned model of governance, the commentator added.
Data from Shengze, a major man-made fibre textile production centre in eastern China, indicate that most PTA producers are struggling to maintain profitability, with PX suppliers in Japan and South Korea enjoying buoyant business conditions, owing to demand from China’s giant polyester sector. Can China rebalance supply and demand for PX, maximising the opportunities from recent investment in PTA capacity, without adding to its already severe environmental problems?
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