SEPA to get tough on gov't violations

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-02 06:57

GUANGZHOU: Officials at the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said they would stand firm in combating government-backed ecological violations that have set back the country's efforts to protect its environment in recent years.

"The administration has set up regional environment watchdogs in Guangzhou and Shanghai and will launch another three in Chengdu, Xi'an and Shenyang over the next four months to ensure local governments abide by environment-protection laws and regulations and meet relevant standards in regional economic development," said Zhang Lijun, a deputy director of SEPA.

"This is an important step to reduce local protectionism, a major obstacle in our law enforcement," he told an internal meeting on Wednesday in Guangzhou, where the South China environment watchdog was set up three years ago.

The South China watchdog has mediated in several inter-provincial pollution disputes and helped local authorities solve severe pollution incidents, including the cadmium spill along the Beijiang River in Guangdong Province in December 2005, said Zhang Jianming, head of the organization.

The cadmium spill threatened the local drinking and agricultural water supplies.

Cadmium, a metallic element widely used in batteries, can cause liver and kidney damage and lead to bone diseases. Compounds containing cadmium are also carcinogenic.

China suffered a string of environmental disasters last year, including a lead poisoning accident caused by a factory in Northwest China's Gansu Province last April, which resulted in 250 children aged under 14 being sent to hospital and left hundreds of others with excessive amounts of lead in their blood.

Last September, two factories in Yueyang of Central China's Hunan Province flushed waste water containing a high concentration of arsenide into the Xinqiang River, affecting the water supply for 80,000 residents in the lower reaches.

"Governments are almost always behind the actions of corporations local authorities sometimes tolerate environmental violations, driven by the need to boost economic growth," said Pan Yue, another SEPA deputy director, in a recent interview with Xinhua.

He said refusal or failure of some governments to live up to their environmental responsibilities and their interference in environmental law enforcement were behind some of China's persistent environmental problems.

In the run-up to the annual parliament session, which is set to open next Monday, Pan urged the legislature to amend its 17-year-old environmental law to make government officials more accountable for pollution.

The law should specify and emphasize the government's responsibility in environmental protection and impose harsher punishments for infractions, he said.

Environmental officials and media regularly lambaste local authorities for rampant environmental violations and have called for serious punishments for negligent officials.

To counter local protectionism, the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee has announced that environment-protection will be an important index for assessing local officials' performance starting this year.

China Daily-Xinhua

(China Daily 03/02/2007 page3)

Top China News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours