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Assessing the assessors begins in May
By Qin Chuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-16 22:14

A qualifying examination designed to certify the professionalism of engineers who conduct environmental impact studies will be held for the first time in May.

Experts say the new system will upgrade China's environmental assessment standards, and push those doing assessments to become more accountable in their work.

According to Ying Li, with the department for the management of environmental impact assessment at the State Environmental Protection Administration, the examination is scheduled for mid-May, and will be held annually.

But not all assessors have to take the exam. Some 130 assessors have undergone a review and will receive the certificate for environmental impact assessment engineers without participating in the exam, Ying said.

"They are all experienced people who have been working in the sector for years," she explained.

Shu Jianmin, director of the environmental impact assessment centre at the Chinese Academy of Environmental Sciences, is one such person.

"The qualification system will strengthen the management of professionals and help upgrade their expertise," Shu said.

Yang Xiaodong, general manager of the Beijing Environmental Impact Assessment Company, said adopting the qualification system meets international common practices and is a "must."

It is just like similar systems used to certify standards for other professionals, such as lawyers, he said.

"It will be beneficial to the healthy development of the marketing the country," he added.

Yang will ask all assessors in his firm qualified for participation to undertake the exam.

Under the system, certificate holders will have to use extreme care and good judgement on projects they assess because they will bear legal responsibility if any of the projects proves to be environmentally unsound, Ying said.

Currently, assessors only suffer losses to their reputations when mistakes occur. It Has always been environmental impact assessment companies or organizations they work for that have been punished, Shu said.

Last month, the administration punished 68 organizations and companies. It suspended the licences of eight and ordered 11 to cease operations.

But the list did not include any individual assessors.

Ying said the most severe punishment for engineer certificate holders in the future might be having their qualifications withdrawn for as long as three years.

Meanwhile, a regulation on requiring engineers to become registered is also being established, Ying said. Engineers will be evaluated of their performance during the registration period of three years.

Shu said he will be more cautious in choosing projects in the future.

"I will not touch any of the projects that have been banned by the administration," he said.

The administration has urged organizations and companies not to conduct environmental impact assessments on eight kinds of projects, such as small ones like paper-making plants that seriously pollute the environment.

Shu said he will try to assess each projects he receives carefully so that his assessment findings can withstand any test.

"In addition, I will keep upgrading my expertise," he said, adding that he will also urge the 40 assessors in his centre to do the same thing.

According to Ying, there are nearly 20,000 environmental impact assessors working in China now.

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