Ministry will give more weight to green issues
By Wu Jiao and Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-03-13 08:02
The creation of a fully fledged environment ministry will give its representatives the power to influence cabinet-level decisions on green issues, a senior environment official said Wednesday.
Wang Yuqing, former deputy head of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said: "The elevation will enable the agency to join every important meeting of the State Council, and ensure environmental protection efforts are better integrated into the decision-making process."
The new Ministry of Environmental Protection will also have more staff and greater financial support, the CPPCC member said on the sidelines of the ongoing legislative sessions.
A government restructuring plan, which proposes the establishment of five new "super ministries" to reduce duplication of work in certain administrative spheres, was submitted for deliberation by lawmakers on Tuesday.
The new environment ministry aims "to boost environmental and ecological protection efforts and accelerate the building of a resource-saving and environment-friendly society," State Councilor Hua Jianmin said while explaining the government's plan to the NPC.
The ministry will be responsible for drafting and implementing programs, policies and standards concerning environmental protection; working out environmental functions in different regions; supervising pollution prevention and treatment efforts; and tackling major environmental issues, Hua said.
However, Wang said the Organization and Staffing Office of the CPC Central Committee will take several months to decide on the detailed responsibilities of the ministry and to set up its subsidiary departments.
"It is still not clear if the pollution control functions scattered among existing ministries will be absorbed into the new ministry," Wang told China Daily.
In the past, several ministries, including water resources, construction, agriculture and oceanic administration, have been involved in curbing water pollution.
A source close to the cabinet reshuffle said the environment ministry is expected to have a consolidated authority over "pollution prevention", which is currently handled by several different departments.
It will have full responsibility for water pollution, while the control of industrial pollution is also to be strengthened under the new ministry, the source said.
It will also be responsible for biodiversity management and approval, and the assessment of national ecological protection zones, which is currently the job of the forestry administration, he said.
As the country rolls out its program of building nuclear power generators, the ministry will play a role in safety management to prevent radiation leaks, the source said.
Also, "we plan to have all staff in place by July, when the internal reshuffle of SEPA will be finished", he said.
James Zimmerman, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said: "SEPA's elevation to ministry level reflects the government's commitment to sustainable development and environmental protection.
"It's progression from a lower-level bureau under the Ministry of Construction to a ministry within just 10 years is a reflection of the change in thinking and heightened awareness of the need to better manage growth."