Tang Hongyun, a 55-year-old farmer in east China's Anhui Province, was
alarmed to see a planned new expressway would cut within 100 meters of the
village primary school.
The dangers of having fast-moving vehicles in an area frequented by young
children were obvious, not to mention the disruption the traffic noise would
cause in classes.
Many Chinese would have accepted these risks as the price to be paid for the
country's rapid development, so Tang was surprised when the authorities sought
his opinion on the plans.
The province's communications investment company had proposed an expressway
from Sihong County, Jiangsu Province, to Xuchang City, Henan Province, with a
long section to go through northern Anhui.
The company published an environmental assessment and began to solicit public
opinions and submissions by mail, e-mail and surveys.
Tang, of Miaowang Village in Lingbi County, said the expressway was too close
to the school and the traffic noise would affect lessons. He suggested the
school be moved from the site and that scores of homes along the road be fitted
with special windows to reduce the noise.
"My family has lived here for generations so I have right to say something
about the project," Tang said.
Tang's suggestions were written into the assessment report. Yu Chenyu, of the
Ministry of Communications environmental protection center, said contractors
were obligated to relocate the school if environmental assessment experts
agreed, which they did.
Tang's victory came about after the State Administration of Environmental
Protection last month promulgated interim measures to include public opinions in
The rules require that public opinions be solicited for the assessment of all
projects and that public hearings last at least 10 days.
Wan Jing, a senior official with Anhui's environmental protection
authorities, said public opinion had already been sought for a dozen proposed
projects in the province, ensuring the public's right to environmental
information and their right to comment and make suggestions.
Previously,environmental assessments were made exclusively by environmental
protection institutions, with submissions by experts only.
The result in Anhui has been changes in other major projects.
The Sihong-Xuchang expressway was originally planned to go through the new
downtown area of Suzhou City, but some residents complained of the probable
inconvenience if the road cut through the downtown area. Planners changed their
design to an elevated road.
"The revision will not only save land resources, but also protect the new
downtown area and avoid high costs in any possible reconstruction," said Wan
Jing, from the provincial environmental protection