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China gets tough on environmental protection

Updated: Nov 27,2014 3:26 PM     Xinhua

BEIJING — Environmental law enforcement is about to get tougher in China, according to a circular on Nov 27.

The State Council General Office outlined arrangements for a nationwide environmental protection campaign, promising a “war” against pollution in “every corner” of the land.

Law enforcement officers must be transparent in executing their duties and show “zero tolerance”. Illegal tipping of hazardous waste in particular must be severely punished. Those who break the law will be “blacklisted” and their identities made public.

Breaches of environmental regulations are frequent in China, however, “many cases are discovered, but few are punished,” said a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress last month. Despite this appearance, the number of criminal pollution cases last year exceeded the total number of similar cases over the last decade, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry.

Supervisors in the environmental ministry will oversee local government environmental protection, said Cao Liping, a ministry official.

Environmental issues have given rise to some mass incidents in recent years with residents angry at local authorities who they perceive to be damaging the environment and endangering public health with new construction projects.

Thousands of people gathered in the city of Shifang in southwest China’s Sichuan province in July 2012 to demand the local government halt construction of a copper-smelting plant. The project was duly scrapped.

Since 2007, paraxylene (PX) projects planned in eastern Xiamen, northeastern Dalian, and southwestern Kunming have been halted after residents complained.

Cao said that while the public are more willing to participate in environmental affairs, there is a lack of understanding between the government and the public.

Government/resident communication should be improved and it should be easier for the public to express their concerns. Citizens and social groups will be invited to participate in environmental law enforcement, he said.

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