The State Council issued a new contingency plan for environmental emergencies — caused by natural events or human activity that endangers the environment or human health — on Feb 3 to reduce damage to life, property and the environment.
Replacing the 2005 plan, the new plan further details the responsibility of authorities, work flow in monitoring and reporting, response measures, damage repairs and general readiness to tackle environmental emergencies.
Focusing on air, water and soil pollution incidents that occur suddenly and in unforeseen circumstances, and environmental events caused by either natural events or human activity, the new contingency plan also clarifies the situations it covers.
Emergencies related to nuclear accidents, marine oil spills and ship pollution are not included in this new contingency plan and will be dealt with in other provisions.
Commitments are given to improve environmental emergency response capabilities of all government bodies.
On the national level, the Ministry of Environmental Protection is responsible for the daily supervision and management of major pollution incidents of a magnitude that require the direct, rapid and coordinated response, or the intervention of national authorities in addition to local, district or regional authorities. When the event is designated as extremely serious, the State Council will respond directly after it has been briefed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
On the local or regional level, government environmental departments will take care of incidents of minor pollution.
To predict the likelihood of occurrence or the seriousness and urgency of an environmental incident, a four-level ranking system will be introduced. The system will be detailed enough to serve as the foundation for creating appropriate and effective operational procedures that influence decision-making processes for agencies and other responders.
Information concerning environmental emergencies should be shared with the public through all possible channels such as the Internet, radio and television while an incident is still in its initial phase.
Due to the variety and complexities of environmental emergencies, the involvement, cooperation, expertise and resources of a number of government agencies, both at central or local level, will be required to form an efficient national environmental response mechanism.
The mechanism will be multi-disciplinary and most likely multi-agency, as areas of responsibilities will be clarified among various responders while agreements, arrangements or memoranda of understanding, if applicable, be concluded.