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Ministry cleans up car wash scam

By Li Lei | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-09-10 14:40
[Photo/VCG]

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment has criticized a city in Shaanxi province where local government departments forced freight trucks to pay for washing services in the name of removing road dust and combating air pollution, saying the practice smeared the country’s ongoing pollution reduction efforts.

The response followed the demolition of three truck wash sites in Binzhou, Shaanxi, on Aug 26, which had been charging trucks entering the city’s urban areas for compulsory washes since March last year. The charges ranged from 10 to 20 yuan ($1.46 to $2.90) depending on the vehicle’s size.

Many truck drivers had complained that the service was perfunctory, with the entire process taking just a few seconds, Xinhua News Agency reported. The sites were closed in April after Xi’an TV, a broadcaster in the capital of Shaanxi, exposed the scandal, but they had resumed operations by July.

Investigations showed that local authorities had adopted a “one-size-fits-all” approach by imposing truck washes on all vehicles, regardless of whether the operation was necessary or could damage goods that were not waterproof.

“Some local governments carry out illegal activities under the name of environmental protection, which in fact has nothing to do with the job,” Liu Youbin, a spokesman for the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, told a news conference. “The car wash sites do not aim to reduce pollution, but to charge fees.”

A statement posted earlier on the ministry’s website said abuse of power under the guise of environmental protection should be strictly prohibited, along with the one-size-fits-all working style that could disrupt people’s lives. Inspections conducted by the central government will target such acts and hold violators accountable, it added.

As antipollution efforts have intensified in recent years, some local governments have opted to shut down all industrial activities in order to pass inspections, especially in sectors such as construction and quarrying.

In May, the ministry released a guideline urging local authorities to avoid the one-size-fits-all approach and minimize the impact on people’s lives. The approach has been listed as an example of formalism and bureaucracy, and officials insisting on it will be held accountable, it said.

The guideline called for antipollution measures to be tailored to match local conditions.

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