Chemical enterprises and industry insiders raised concerns over the weekend after a city government in East China's Jiangsu Province ordered a complete shutdown of an industrial park following a deadly explosion in one chemical plant.
The Yancheng government in Jiangsu ordered the Xiangshui chemical industry park closed to rectify the industry, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Friday.
The decision was made after an explosion on March 21 killed 78 people and injured hundreds. Another accident took place on March 31 in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province, killing seven people and injuring five, Xinhua reported.
The Jiangsu provincial government also issued a draft plan on April 1 to rectify and upgrade the chemical industry, which vows to cut the 50 chemical parks in the province to 20 and reduce the number of enterprises to less than 1,000 by 2022, jiemian.com reported.
Some industry insiders expressed concerns over the decision. A chemical company employee in Xiangshui told the Beijing-based newspaper Securities Times that the company thought the government would impose stricter environmental and safety examinations, but the complete shutdown was "beyond expectations."
Although many companies at the Xiangshui industrial park have safety loopholes and problems, the shutdown may be unfair to enterprises that abide by laws and have invested heavily in environmental protection, another company told the newspaper.
The news report also said it would be difficult for companies to relocate after the shutdown.
Ma Jun, director of Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), told the Global Times the complete shutdown is not the best solution since the park has an important role in the chemical industry and serves as a provider of the global pesticide and pharmaceutical industry.
However, Xiangshui and two other chemical parks in northern Jiangsu have gone through several rounds of rectification, but failed to prevent the tragedy, said Ma.
IPE's database suggested that among 367 chemical enterprises in the three parks, 300 had violated environmental laws and regulations. Most have multiple records.
Xiangshui industry park opened at a time when the local government's planning was weak and environmental impact assessment was lax. Meanwhile, the companies, many of which relocated from southern Jiangsu, have an incentive to make quick money to compensate for the move, according to Ma.
Ma said the local government had tried to address the problem by suspending production and allowing the company to resume after they corrected wrongdoings, but the model did not work.
"There is no alternative for Xiangshui," Ma stressed, noting that stricter government supervision is urgently needed considering the frequent accidents in the province.
The shutdown will not address the industry's problem, and all stakeholders should participate in the regulation with strict standards, Ma said.