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China considers harsher legislation against polluters

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-06-26 14:24

BEIJING -- The draft amendment to the environmental protection law, tabled for the second reading Wednesday, has adopted harsher punishment on polluters and highlighted the public's right to know and participate.

The bill was submitted to the bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), which runs from Wednesday to Saturday.

The bill adopts harsher punishment on polluters, compared with the version that was tabled for the first reading in August.

According to the bill, companies and other organizations, which intentionally escape supervision and discharge pollutants, will be prosecuted if they violate the law. Those, whose activities are not serious enough for criminal prosecution, will be punished according to the law on penalties for administration of public security, for instance being put under administrative detention.

A new chapter is added to protect the public's right to know concerning environmental information. According to the bill, governments of all levels should publicize environmental information and facilitate the participation of and supervision by citizens and institutions in environmental protection.

Polluters are required to publish the information about the pollutants they discharge and how they act to control the pollution.

The bill also introduces public interest litigation by authorizing the All-China Environment Federation and its provincial branches to initiate lawsuits against polluters on behalf of the public.

Environmental protection in rural areas is also highlighted in the bill. County governments are required to install waste processing facilities in the countryside and efforts should be made to regulate the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Besides harsher punishment, the bill introduces measures to encourage law-abiding and eco-friendly enterprises. The government is urged to offer preferential policies in tax and loans to enterprises that have a good record in reducing pollution and protecting the environment.

The attempt to amend the environmental protection law was considered an important part of the country's comprehensive efforts to conserve resources and curb pollution.

The law has not been revised since it took effect in 1989. However, over the past two decades, the country has faced worsening pollution problems and the public has become less tolerant about environmental hazards.

Multiple Chinese cities were choked by dense smog earlier this year. Beijing's average PM2.5 density in January was 180 micrograms per cubic meter, about 30 percent higher than the level recorded during the same period in 2011, according to meteorological data.

At a study session with members of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee in May, President Xi Jinping pledged that China will not sacrifice the environment for temporary economic growth.

Last week, the country's supreme court and procuratorate jointly issued a new judicial explanation that aimed to ease difficulties in investigating environmental pollution cases and convicting polluters.

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