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Cabinet mulling petrochemical zone amid fury from residents
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-08-15 07:59 PM

The Cabinet is considering a proposal to set up a special zone on reclaimed land off Siaogang District and Hongmaogang of Kaohsiung for petrochemical companies in the wake of the deadly gas explosions that rocked the southern city July 31.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah will meet with the Ministry of Economic Affairs next week to discuss a proposed relocation plan, Cabinet spokesman Sun Lih-chyun said. While confirming that the premier was briefed on the proposal earlier this week, Sun said that no decision has been made regarding the plan. The plan involves relocating the existing petrochemical complexes in Kaohsiung to the reclaimed land in a bid to avoid laying high-risk pipelines in residential areas.

According to the United Daily News, under the plan, the government will reclaim some lands to build a specialized zone for petrochemical plants, which are currently scattered around the populous port city. The project would cost an estimated NT$50 billion (US$1.67 billion) and would likely be completed in 2017.

According to a report from China Petroleum Corporation (CPC) in 2011, Taiwan’s petrochemical industry contributes NT$1.7 trillion a year to the domestic economy, and its annual output accounts for 30 percent of total manufacturing output.

However, the central government’s plan to set up a new industrial zone for petrochemical companies is now facing stiff opposition in Siaogang district, especially in the Fengxing, Fenglin, Fengyuan, Fengshen, Fengming, and Lungfeng neighborhoods as the new site is closer to them. These six areas have 19,682 villagers whose neighborhoods are already surrounded by some petrochemical factories.

Villagers from these six neighborhoods are known for being very tough and had taken to the streets several times to protest against the construction of new high-risk factories nearby. Chang Liang-ming, Fengyuan neighborhood chief, said they will “fight to the last minute” against this new industrial zone unless whole villages are relocated to an appropriate location.

The Kaohsiung City Government conducted an intention survey regarding the relocation in these neighborhoods earlier, and the majority of recipients consented to this move. But the central and local governments have not taken any actions so far.

Huang Wen-yu, Lungfeng neighborhood chief, also expressed support for the village relocation plan, saying that poor air quality from nearby petrochemical plants have led to a higher risk of developing cancer for residents here than for people living other neighborhoods. “If a petrochemical manufacturing zone locates here, it would be too much to bear and a bloodshed protest is to be expected then,” said Huang.

In response to the proposal, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu said Friday that it is necessary to discuss with residents before a decision is made on building a special petrochemical zone. The top priority at present is to ensure safety in existing pipelines owned by petrochemical companies in the city, she said.

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