The Ministry of Environmental Protection released a draft of public rights on April 14 to encourage participation in projects and policies involving the environment.
The draft stipulates that the public can participate in making and revising policies and regulations, drawing up environmental impact statements, investigating cases of serious pollution that violate their environmental rights, supervising the emissions of major companies in polluting industries and other voluntary services.
Environmental authorities should make necessary information public through the Web and other channels, and people can apply for more information if they think it’s insufficient, according to the full text of the draft published in China Environment News, the ministry’s newspaper.
Information involving business or State secrets or personal privacy is exempt.
The draft is open for public feedback until April 20, the ministry said.
Qin Tianbao, an environmental law professor at Wuhan University, said the draft makes the guidelines in the Environmental Protection Law operable.
He said the clear stipulations would guarantee that people have access to information in advance, which could reduce the risks of mass incidents on major industrial projects.
Ma Yong, deputy head of the law bureau in the All-China Environment Federation, a nationwide nonprofit environmental organization, agreed that the draft would encourage people to get involved with environmental issues, but he said it did not clearly define people’s environmental rights, which would be an obstacle for the public is taking action against some policies and projects.
“People may find it difficult to tell whether serious pollution cases are violating their environmental rights because they don’t know what their rights are,” Ma said.
Before the ministry released the draft, Hebei province, which had six of the 10 cities with the worst air quality last year, implemented a regulation for public participation in environmental issues on Jan 1. It was the country’s first regional law in this area.