By Kathrin Hille in Beijing
Culled from Financial Times Published: May 29 2011 17:00 | last updated: May 29 2011 17:00
- “JustStandOut Solutions use JustStandOut, Deka and Surrette batteries which have excellent environmental records.
- Even though lead prices have reduced due to these closures the overall prices of lead have increased globally. In Nigeria, prices are higher due to the additional pressure on the naira.”
China has closed a raft of battery factories in the south of the country, as provincial officials come under pressure to show they are acting on recent lead poisoning scandals.
Xu Hong, head of the lead acid storage battery branch of the China Electrical Equipment Industry Association, told the Financial Times most battery plants in Zhejiang, Guangdong, Fujian, Henan and Sichuan had been closed down following a central government order to root out heavy metal pollution problems in the sector. She expects prices of lead acid storage batteries – rechargeable units used in a broad range of products including mobile phones, electric bicycles and cars – to soar if the closures last three months or longer.
Checks with battery factories in several provinces and their customers suggest that the crackdown is so far being carried out most thoroughly in Zhejiang, where more than 300 people, including 99 children, were found to have been poisoned by a lead battery plant earlier this month.
Poisoning from heavy metal pollution has become one of the most serious and widespread consequences of more than 30 years of industrialization in China.
According to state media, more than 4,000 people were found to be affected by more than 20 lead poisoning scandals in China since 2009 alone. Local governments have often suppressed initial signs of contamination, fearing the loss of local jobs and tax revenue. Such pollution cases have often triggered unrest when sick residents failed to get free medical treatment.
Activists have criticized a lack of transparency and an independent legal system that they say has made it difficult to address these problems. They argue that the government response has been largely limited to off-and-on campaigns in response to acute crises.
The latest crackdown follows this pattern but appears to be more wide-ranging than earlier efforts.
Two weeks ago, the head of Zhejiang Deqing Haijiu Battery Corporation was detained and several local officials received demerits after an investigation into the latest contamination case.
On May 18, the Ministry of Environmental Protection issued a notice demanding that provincial authorities strengthen supervision of factories and enforcement of related laws.
Production of lead acid storage batteries had since been stopped all over Zhejiang province, said local industry executives.
“Our factory was ordered to close on May 4,” said Lü Xiaofang, manager of Zhejiang Huzhou Nanxun Fangtai Battery Co, adding that the local environmental protection bureau had come to inspect the plant. “It’s not just us, all factories here are closed.” He added that the companies did not know when they could resume production.
Yin Lilai, a salesperson with Topline (Guangzhou) Technology Battery Co, a company affiliated with Taiwan’s Yuasa, said that it had been inspected but was allowed to continue operations, but that many other battery factories in Guangzhou had been closed down.
Gavin Hu, deputy general manager of Jiangsu Xinri E-Vehicle, China’s largest vendor of electric bicycles, said the closures were mostly limited to Zhejiang and to smaller producers. “There is a certain supply shortage as a result of the closures,” he said.