China / Society

Strategic assessments to reduce pollution

By Zheng Jinran (China Daily) Updated: 2015-10-28 07:48

China has started its first strategic environmental impact assessment in the three major industrial zones with the most severe pollution, aiming to provide more effective prevention from sources of pollution, the national environmental watchdog said on Tuesday.

The assessment project, a higher level of environmental impact assessment, targets the policies, plans and projects of governments. It could prevent pollution before decision-makers embark on development plans for the economy and urbanization, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said.

The project, which is expected to last until the end of 2017, will focus on three aspects - setting the bottom line in land exploration, the upper limit of pollutant emissions, and the threshold for polluting industries in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, and the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas, the three major industrial regions with severe pollution in the country, the ministry said.

The next five years will be a promising period for environmental impact assessments to perform better in controlling projects that would pollute the environment, Pan Yue, deputy minister of environmental protection, said on Tuesday.

But currently it is common to see projects starting construction before passing an environmental impact assessment, which is supposed to be the first approval before construction, Pan said. Widespread violations have affected efforts to reduce pollution, Pan added.

For example, governments have approved development plans for 113 coal mining areas since 2003. However, 52 of them had their plans approved by governments before they passed environmental impact assessments, which made their approvals illegal.

The ministry plans to accelerate the development of strategic environmental impact assessments in the three major regions and strengthen punishments for projects that started construction before getting environmental assessments approved.

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