China's environmental watchdog has singled out nine major pollution cases involving dozens of companies, and in a rare move has warned local authorities not to interfere.
SHANGHAI — China's environmental watchdog has singled out nine major pollution cases involving dozens of companies, and in a rare move has warned local authorities not to interfere.
The State Environmental Protection Agency, which has a weak track record on enforcement, named industries operating in 10 regions or cities, mainly involving paper, calcium carbide, coking coal and iron alloy production, that it said were causing severe pollution.
Local authorities who fail to penalize the polluters will be punished, Lu Xinyuan, director of the agency's Environment Supervision Bureau, said in comments seen Wednesday on SEPA's Web site.
"We shall resort to legal, administrative, economic and other means to tackle the issues," Lu said.
With laxly regulated industries fouling the air and water even in remote rural regions, China is one of the world's most polluted countries.
One of the cases Lu cited involved calcium carbide, iron alloy and coking factories spread throughout a region straddling the borders of four north-central provinces: Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Shanxi Shaanxi.
In recent months the environmental watchdog has stepped up efforts to improve enforcement and it has been backed by government plans to nearly double the amount Beijing spends on environmental protection through 2006-2010, to 1.3 trillion yuan (US$157 billion; euro120 billion).
The environment agency earlier this year ordered the suspension of 30 big construction projects, including two at the massive Three Gorges Dam, for alleged violations of conservation safeguards. Although some later were reportedly allowed to continue, experts working in the field say they believe the environment agency will get tough with polluters.
Hundreds of companies were facing a May 31 deadline to meet environmental standards or face closure, the agency said in a report accompanying Lu's comments.
"What I see in SEPA is a new resolve," said Khalid Malik, who is involved in numerous environmental projects as the U.N. Development Program's chief representative in China.
Officials increasingly are being judged by their success in improving the environment, as well as in boosting local economies, he said.
However, local officials set on creating jobs and generating tax revenues or reaping kickbacks often disregard requirements for environmental impact assessments and allow companies to continue operating despite blatant violations of government air and water standards.
"Of course, money and commerce are supremely driving factors," Malik said.
Source: Associated Press