Environmental head criticizes local officials

(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-12-27 06:50

The country's top environmental official criticized grassroots authorities yesterday for gross violations that have led to rampant environmental degradation.

"In some places, officials still focus on economic growth and neglect environmental protection," said Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), in a report to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the top legislature.

Pollution has become one of the most serious concerns in China and the government has invested billions of yuan to improve the situation, but not to much avail.

Some local governments drag their feet on technology upgrading and keep approving heavily-polluting projects, he said.

"Illegal small chemical plants, and paper and leather mills are still being set up. Many outdated technologies are still in use."

The government has shut down more than 40,000 plants and production lines since 2001 for environmental pollution.

However, Zhou said: "The failure to abide by the law and lax enforcement are still serious in many places."

He said some local leaders directly interfered in environmental enforcement by threatening to remove, demote or retaliate against environmental officials.

Meanwhile, Zhou said environmental agencies at county level were generally understaffed and poorly equipped. "Some grassroots environmental agencies have to use their noses (to smell pollutants) when accidents happen," Zhou said.

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