The newly approved Ministry of Ecological Environment, which will oversee regular anti-pollution inspections nationwide, will help China protect its environment more effectively, a senior official said.
On the morning of March 17, deputies to the 13th National People’s Congress, the top legislature, approved the government’s institutional reform plan, which includes transforming the Ministry of Environmental Protection into a more powerful Ministry of Ecological Environment.
The new ministry will absorb duties held by other authorities that relate to river, marine and soil pollution as well as climate change.
Li Ganjie, minister of environmental protection, said at a news conference in Beijing that the move will better serve the country’s environmental protection efforts.
“There are two major obstacles in the previous environmental protection system: the difficulty of making responsible decisions due to the overlapping duties among different departments; and blunted supervision power, as some supervisors also are in charge of management,” Li said in response to a China Daily reporter’s question about the functions of the new ministry.
“Under the reform, such problems will no longer exist and supervision power will be guaranteed,” he said. “Also, under the management of the new ministry, China’s ecological environment will be protected as an integrated system.”
The new ministry plans to set up a nationwide inspection system, which will give responsibility for regular checks on polluting companies and factories to local authorities in addition to the central government, he said.
The central government launched its first round of national environmental inspections in December 2015. As of January, 31 provinces and regions had received feedback, according to Li, who said the inspections had played an effective role in solving a large number of environmental problems.
“We will get to the bottom of the problems discovered during the inspections, which were led by the central government,” he said.
The minister added that 1,048 more officials, including three at or above vice-ministerial level, will be punished for failing to fulfill environmental protection duties during the process, signaling a stronger desire to hold officials accountable.
Although China has made remarkable progress in containing and preventing air pollution in the past five years, the country still faces a severe situation in its air quality and is aware of the long road ahead before the air becomes clean enough, according to Li.
“We need to stop relying on the help from favorable weather conditions to get rid of pollutants in the air,” he said, adding that the current measures to curb air pollution have proved to be working.
He said the new targets for the concentration of PM2.5 — tiny, toxic particulate matter — for the next three years will be stricter than those in the country’s current five-year plan, due to end in 2020.