All 30 law-breaking projects suspended
China's top environment watchdog yesterday announced that all of the 30 law-breaking projects it publicized on January 18 have stopped construction.
According to China's Law on Environmental Impact Assessment, which took effect on September 1, 2003, construction projects should not be started before their environmental impact assessment documents are approved by environment authorities.
On January 24, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said construction of 22 had stopped. The series of moves from the environmental authorities were widely dubbed by domestic media as an "environmental impact assessment storm."
But eight, including three hydropower plants of the China Three Gorges Project Corporation, continued. One of the three is the Xiluodu Hydropower Plant along the Jinsha River, a section of the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, which involves an investment of more than 44 billion yuan (US$5.3 billion) and is the biggest among the 30.
Vice-minister of SEPA Pan Yue said in a statement yesterday that the eight have now been stopped and are waiting for approval of assessment documents.
China Three Gorges Project Corporation has submitted environmental impact assessment documents to the administration and stopped its three projects, according to the statement.
Shu Jianmin, director of the environmental impact assessment centre of the Chinese Academy of Environmental Sciences, said the move showed a strengthening of law enforcement.
It is not that the companies do not have an awareness of environmental protection, Shu said, adding that it was just a matter of compliance.
Liao Xiaoyi, president of the non-government organization (NGO) Global Village of Beijing, said she was "delighted" at hearing the news.
"The storm does take effect at last," she said, adding that she had doubted if the 30 projects could be stopped because they are all large ventures.
Liao said that public participation in environmental impact assessment should be reinforced, too.
In another development, the SEPA and the National Development and Reform Commission have together issued a notice on pushing forward environmental protection during the building of hydropower plants.
According to the notice, some products start construction without environmental protection facilities, causing soil erosion, while others cause negative impact on the ecology of the lower reaches due to defects in design and operation.
Great importance should be attached to the environmental impact assessment of hydropower development plans, the notice said. Hydropower projects should also take concrete environmental protection measures.
Zhang Jianyu, a visiting scholar at the Tsinghua University's School of Public Policy and Management, said it was practical for the two government bodies to jointly issue such a notice.
Wang Yongchen, founder of the Beijing-based NGO Green Earth Volunteers, said the joint issue is a big step forward.
The development and reform authorities used to put more emphasis on development, she said. But now it had started to realize the importance of environment and sustainability.
Wang said it was hoped that such a move was not only a written form, but an implemented practice.
(China Daily 02/03/2005 page2)