The central government’s environmental inspection efforts continue to press local governments forward, as 1,140 officials in eight provincial regions received punishments for poor performance in environmental protection, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Nov 16.
The high-level inspection teams, sent by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, visited eight provincial-level jurisdictions in July 2016. That first effort covered Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Henan and Yunnan provinces, and the Inner Mongolia, Guangxi Zhuang and Ningxia Hui autonomous regions.
After the monthlong inspections, the provincial governments continued to investigate the pollution cases identified by the inspectors, as well as another 100 major problems involving environmental damage. Results were released on Nov 16.
Of the 1,140 officials punished, 227 were from Henan, the most among the eight provincial areas. A big share of the punishments across the board were given for poor performance in air pollution control, according to statements by the ministry and governments on Thursday.
For example, 61 Henan officials (27 percent) at the provincial and city level were punished over air pollution, including Xinxiang’s deputy mayor, Zhi Wei, who received an administrative warning over air quality that worsened from 2014 to 2016.
“It’s the strongest effort adopted by the province in combating pollution, and it has had a profound influence. The number of punished officials hit a record high,” the statement from Henan province on Nov 16 said.
In addition, Jia Jiantao, former deputy mayor of Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang, received an intra-Party warning over the severe air pollution, a statement from that province said.
In Pingxiang, Jiangxi, seven major plants were found discharging excessive pollutants in 2015, and 16 city officials received punishments, including warnings, the provincial government said.
“The central environmental inspections have pushed the local governments forward in punishing irresponsible officials, and have fostered more efforts in implementing environmental measures,” said Liu Changgen, deputy director of the national environmental inspection office.
Central inspection teams visited 30 provincial level regions in four rounds since a pilot effort was undertaken in Hebei province in January 2016. The major focus on local governments’ performance is improving the environment, the ministry said.
In the four waves of inspections, the inspectors transferred more than 100,000 pollution cases to the local governments. At least 12,000 officials were punished during the investigations, the ministry said.
The central government has ordered that all provinces get a high-level inspection every two years, Liu noted.
“The inspections will continue to work to promote the governments’ efforts in curbing pollution,” said Liu, adding that in December or January, 10 teams will go to 10 cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and neighboring provinces to push forward their air pollution control measures for the winter.