Environmental accidents must be reported within an hour after they are discovered, China's pollution watchdog ordered Tuesday, citing the public's "right to know" following a spate of disasters.
SHANGHAI, China Environmental accidents must be reported within an hour after they are discovered, China's pollution watchdog ordered Tuesday, citing the public's "right to know" following a spate of disasters.
After more than 25 years of breakneck growth, China is in the midst of an environmental crisis that has continued to worsen as local authorities fail to enforce regulations meant to counter severe air and water pollution.
In a notice on its Web site, the State Environmental Protection Agency outlined its determination to "strictly enforce" these oft-ignored regulations.
The renewed effort to improve compliance was prompted by several major chemical spills in major rivers, the most severe one a toxic spill in November into the Songhua River, a key source of drinking water for tens of millions of people living in northeastern China and Russia.
Serious accidents must be reported directly to the Environmental Protection Agency, known as SEPA, or to the State Council, China's cabinet, the notice said.
It said authorities must launch an immediate investigation after receiving a report. Those who fail to report as required, or who attempt to cover up or falsify information will be punished, it said without providing details on potential penalties.
"With such a reporting system, SEPA will keep the public updated with the latest and accurate information," the notice quoted an unnamed spokesman for the agency as saying. "This disclosure system will protect the public's right to know about the environment."
Since the Nov. 13 spill in the Songhua River, caused by a chemical plant explosion, the agency said it had received 45 reports of environmental accidents as of Feb. 1, six of them serious.
They included a cadmium leak from a smelting factory into the Bei River in southern China's Guangdong province, a spill in the neighboring province of Guangxi, a zinc leak from another smelter along the Xiang River in Hunan province, diesel pollution in the Yellow River from a power plant in central China's Henan province and a petrol slick in the Gan River in Jiangxi, caused by a fire aboard a ferry.
Such disasters result from "an imbalance in industrial structure," the notice said.
More than half of China's major chemical companies have factories along the country's two major river basins, the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, according to a report in the English-language China Daily newspaper Tuesday.
Many were built without environmental impact assessments, it said.
Source: Associated Press