After putting two highly polluting projects on hold as a result of public
pressure, the top environmental watchdog yesterday said it would seek to
establish a proper mechanism to allow for its further participation in
"The public is the most interested party when it comes to the environment and
has the biggest incentive to protect it," the vice-minister of the State
Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) Pan Yue said at an urban
management symposium in Beijing.
"Therefore, people should be given the right to know, to express, to
participate and to supervise," he said, adding the government should establish a
system to protect these rights.
The Environmental Impact Assessment Law, passed in 2002, and administration
documents have made it clear that public involvement in environmental management
is encouraged, although there is so far no detailed or effective mechanism to
safeguard such participation.
The lack of public participation could harm the implementation of
environmental policies and cause conflicts between governments and the people,
Earlier this month, thousands of people in the eastern coastal city of Xiamen
took to the streets to voice their anger after the government approved the
construction of a chemical project close to local residential areas.
At about the same time, hundreds of people gathered at the SEPA's offices in
Beijing to protest against a planned waste incineration power project in the
city. Protesters in both cities said local governments had failed to listen to
The administration subsequently suspended both projects pending further
However, officials admitted there is still no clear path to a standardized
"How to design and formulate the mechanism is still under discussion," Bie
Tao, deputy director of the administration's policies and regulations
But he said a project supported by the World Bank was a good attempt.
The project, which was initiated in 2000 and will end this year, seeks to
hold regular roundtable meetings featuring representatives of the government,
commerce and industry, and community groups to allow the public to have a bigger
say in environmental governance.
The project has successfully held more than 30 meetings in nine cities, most
in East China's Jiangsu Province and the northern Hebei Province, and helped
improve the transparency of local policymaking.
However, Wang Hua, a project leader and senior economist with the World Bank,
said the project had failed to set up a regular mechanism due to a lack of
"If there is no clear regulation, most local governments are unwilling to
take the trouble," he said.
Meanwhile, a new website, which officially opened yesterday, is seeking to
provide detailed information relating to environmental laws and regulations.
The site, www.greenlaw.org.cn, is a joint venture between environmental NGOs,
China Environment Culture Promotion Association and the US-based Natural
Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Alex Wang, director of the NRDC China Environmental Law Project, said China
has about 600 laws and regulations regarding public participation, but they are
not always easy to understand.
"The website aims to provide clear and concise information, using case
studies and a legal database," he said.
(China Daily 06/22/2007 page3)