Cement factories demolished to clean air
In its latest move to battle air pollution, Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province, began the demolition of its first batch of 18 cement plants on Tuesday.
Seventy-four plants in the Shijiazhuang suburbs are targeted for destruction by March. The demolition will eventually expand to all western areas of Shijiazhuang by 2017.
“The cement companies have been a major source of dust pollution, making them a priority for demolition,” said Niu Yongzhi, the official from the Bureau of Industry and Information in Shijiazhuang who is in charge of the project.
In the first round, the production and storage facilities of three plants were blasted by explosives, while others were bulldozed by heavy tractors. All 18 demolitions are expected to be finished next month.
Removal of these cement operations will reduce dust by 38.25 million metric tons per year.
Emissions of nitrogen oxides — which come from the burning of coal in the production process — are expected to drop by 3.38 million tons, saving 150,000 tons of coal, according to a document released by the bureau.
“It will help improve the air quality, but it’s just the beginning,” Niu said, adding that all the cement plants along the Xibaipo Expressway are marked for demolition.
Yang Li, 29, who lives near a cement plant that is being demolished in Yi’an county, Luquan, said, “It may not make an instant improvement in air quality, but it’s definitely a good move for our lungs and health.”
Her family planted vegetables in a nearby field, and the crops were always covered with dust, she said.
The cement plant closures do not come without an economic cost, however.
“The city picked the 18 companies with fewest employment issues first,” said Niu. He said most of the workers were part-timers from nearby villages.
More than 3,500 workers from the 18 plants will have to find other ways to support their families.
“We will encourage our workers to find new jobs first, but if they fail or insist on
It will help improve the air quality, but it’s just the beginning.” NIU YONGZHI OFFICIAL FROM THE BUREAU OF INDUSTRY AND INFORMATION OF SHIJIAZHUANG
staying, we will arrange work at our other branch companies or with new projects in the future,” said Feng Jinmin, a manager at Jinyu Dingxing Cement Co.
Two of Jinyu’s plants will be demolished. The two plants made profits of 30 million yuan ($4.9 million) annually. The government must also pay compensation to the companies whose plants are being shut down.
Seven plants in Pingshan county will receive an average of 9 million yuan each, and preferential policies, including tax reduction, will be given to them when they start other businesses.
“We encourage them to start companies involving technology or other zero-pollution industries,” said Fan Shixiong, head of the Bureau of Industry and Information in Pingshan county.
The other 11 plants, located in Luquan will see similar compensation, said Zhang Zhenping, Fan’s counterpart in Luquan.
The 18 plants, scattered throughout the northwestern area of Shijiazhuang, produced 9.4 million tons of cement annually, accounting for 20.8 percent of the city’s annual output.
“We understand the huge cost of these demolitions, but it’s necessary for the improvement of air quality and for optimizing the economic structure,” Zhang said.
To control serious air pollution in Hebei, the provincial government has enacted strict measures designed to reduce airborne particles. The cement industry has been a major contributor.
By 2014, cement production capacity in Hebei will be reduced by 61 million tons, the equivalent of 50 percent of the province’s total cement production in 2012. Zhao Zhiyue contributed to this story.