A new round of central government environmental inspections will be carried out across the country in the next three years after the practice has proved effective in environmental protection, a senior official said on Dec 28.
The inspection will be extended to central government bodies and State-owned enterprises, particularly those at high risk for having problems with pollution, said Liu Changgen, executive deputy director of the central ecological and environmental inspection office at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. Liu spoke at a news conference.
Central environmental inspections are one of the latest methods the country is trying in order to establish an institutional system to promote its ecological civilization process. That effort was mandated by the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in 2013.
The session, presided over by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, vowed to set up a complete institutional system for ecological environment protection and reform the related governance system.
The central inspections, launched in 2016 and led by ministerial-level officials, covered all provincial regions of the Chinese mainland in 2017.
Inspectors found a total of 2,147 environmental violations in the inspections and about 70 percent have been rectified, according to the ministry. “The violations are not minor but major ones that are complicated to address,” Liu said.
He said there are many examples in each provincial region demonstrating significant results.
The Maozhou River in Guangdong province, for example, used to be one of the most polluted rivers in the Pearl River Delta. Unpleasant odors fouled the atmosphere around the river and kept people away when inspectors visited in 2016.
The local government invested over 20 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) for pollution control after the inspection, and now a large number of people visit the river’s banks every day thanks to the improved environment.
The central inspection teams also revisited 20 of the provincial regions in May and October to check whether previous violations had been rectified.
During the follow-up visits, the inspection teams received 96,755 tips from the public and transferred 75,781 cases to local governments for further investigation once duplicate information was removed, the ministry said.
As of Dec 20, the local governments had concluded investigations in most of the cases. Some 11,300 enterprises were fined a total of 1 billion yuan for violations. More than 700 people were detained, and over 8,600 officials were held accountable and punished, according to the ministry.
Liu said the ministry exposed 103 violations after the follow-up visits and the exposure has worked well in warning environmental violators.
“The environmental consciousness of local governments has greatly improved. The situation in which many local governments gave priority to development but overlooked the environment has been changed,” he added.
Technological approaches, such as remote sensing, unmanned aerial vehicles and big data, will be used to help find violations, he said.