The country's top environmental official criticized grassroots authorities
yesterday for gross violations that have led to rampant environmental
"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
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 Many outdated technologies are still in use."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.