May 24, 2019 / 5:17 AM / 5 months ago

China aims to relocate 80% of toxic chemical producers after blast: report

FILE PHOTO: Rescue workers are seen at the site at the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical following an explosion, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China aims to relocate more than 80% of its hazardous chemical production capacity by the end of next year, state media reported on Friday, as it embarks on far-reaching reforms in the sector following a fatal explosion at a factory in March.

Citing government officials speaking at a forum this week, the Xinhua News Agency-backed Economic Information Daily reported China will now make sure the bulk of its hazardous chemical production is located in specialised industrial parks, where dangers can be monitored and controlled more effectively.

A blast at the Tianjiayi chemicals factory in Yancheng in eastern coastal Jiangsu province killed 78 people and injured dozens more, prompting a nationwide safety crackdown and the closure of dozens of unsafe plants.

The explosion also drew attention to the role played by poorly regulated Chinese producers in the global chemical supply chain, with the Tianjiayi plant believed to have provided key chemical ingredients to several multinational conglomerates.

China has already been tightening its zoning requirements for chemical plants and has gradually moved dangerous production away from highly populated urban areas and into suburban industrial parks.

But according to a report by financial magazine Caixin on Friday, many chemical plants are now being forced to relocate a second time, with zoning requirements now being enforced more strictly, partly because of the Tianjiayi blast.

China had 676 chemical industry parks by the end of last year, according to government figures cited in the Economic Information Daily report, but not all of them meet strict state rules. The March explosion occurred at the Chenjiagang park, which was dangerously close to densely populated residential areas.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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