China needs to wake up to its pollution crisis, a top environment official warned on Thursday, saying the country still suffers frequent environmental accidents a year after a disastrous explosion at a chemical plant.
BEIJING China needs to wake up to its pollution crisis, a top environment official warned on Thursday, saying the country still suffers frequent environmental accidents a year after a disastrous explosion at a chemical plant.
"Every two or three days there is still an environmental accident in China," Pan Yue, deputy head of China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) told a news conference.
"We need to pay more attention to this problem. We should wake up."
Cancer-causing benzene compounds were sent spewing into the Songhua River a year ago by the blast at the chemical plant, creating a toxic slick that poisoned the source of drinking water for millions and flowed across the border into Russia.
The Songhua incident sparked the resignation of SEPA's head as well as a series of changes in environmental management in China after it was revealed that local officials waited several days before reporting the spill.
In the past year SEPA set up branch offices to monitor and investigate potential hazards, has tried to tighten environmental impact assessments and central government spending on the environment has increased.
But Pan said SEPA needed to be much stronger before it could be more effective.
"In particular, we still need to build a transparent environmental information system," he said.
His comments echoed recommendations in an environmental performance review released on Thursday by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which said there were huge gaps in governance on pollution issues.
"Overall, environmental efforts have lacked effectiveness and efficiency, largely as a result of implementation gaps," OECD deputy secretary-general, Kiyo Akasaka, said.
"We recommend to strengthen environmental democracy with respect to the disclosure of environmental information ... and citizen's participation, including through hotlines," he said.
The organisation also recommended SEPA be upgraded to ministerial level to make it more powerful.
But Pan said more important than title was the creation of one body that could manage all environmental issues, in contrast to the current system in which everyone from the Ministry of Construction to the Ministry of Water Resources handles separate parts of the problem.
"What we want is not just a so-called promotion," he said. "What we want is a real integration of factors, not simply a beautiful title."