Aerial view of the debris of the chemical plant of Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Co in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, East China’s Jiangsu Province on March 23 after an explosion. Photo: IC

East China’s Jiangsu and Shandong provinces have recently rolled out a slew of measures to upgrade their chemical factories ahead of the upcoming National Day holiday, in a move that analysts say reflects the provinces’ determination to deliver on environmental protection and production safety.

In a notice issued earlier in September, the Jiangsu provincial government said that there is a plan for a total of 579 chemical firms and nine chemical industrial parks to be shut down in 2019.

One of the nine industrial parks is the Xiangshui Park, which was ordered into a complete shutdown in April following a deadly explosion in March which killed 78 people and injured hundreds.

Jiangsu will ramp up efforts to crack down on unqualified chemical firms by following the roadmaps of “one plan for one firm” and “one plan for one park,” according to the notice.

Firms with rectification plans that are not approved should be shut down, while those whose test results cannot meet environmental protection requirements after improvement should also be shut down, said the notice.

In April, the Jiangsu government issued a draft plan to rectify and upgrade the chemical industry, which vowed to cut the 50 chemical parks in the province to 20 and reduce the number of chemical enterprises to less than 1,000 by 2022.

Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Saturday that small and medium-sized chemical firms that take up a major proportion of such firms in Jiangsu are the main source of pollution and potential safety hazards.

“The whole chemical industry is now at the phase of overcapacity, so the shutdown of some firms or parks won’t affect much of the local economy, which is more flexible and developed compared to other regions in China,” said Lin.

He noted that the one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with chemical firms and parks might mean the loss of some good firms, but it is currently an appropriate way for the industry’s upgrade.

“The Yangtze River Delta, with Jiangsu as a major manufacturing hub, is taking the lead in the nation’s reorganization of its chemical industry,” said Lin, adding that some capacity might transfer to less economically developed regions in the northeast, west or central parts of the country where pollution costs are lower.

Apart from Jiangsu, Shandong Province also strengthened its efforts in this regard earlier this month by adding nearly 200 firms to a shutdown list across the province.

“Eliminating unqualified capacity has become a national trend driven by policy and market force,” said Lin.