No time for ‘once on shore, we pray no more’

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

smoggy days.

On Wed­nes­day, strong northerly winds along with a cold cur­rent swept away the heavy smog that had shrouded most parts of north­ern and east­ern China.

The bright sun­shine and clean air has also raised the spir­its of res­i­dents, lift­ing them out of their dol­drums.

But we should not adopt a “once on shore, we pray no more” men­tal­ity when it comes to air pol­lu­tion, be­cause the smog will soon re­turn once the wind changes di­rec­tion as the sources of pol­lu­tion have not been blown away.

The Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion or­ga­nized in­spec­tions of 12 heav­ily pol­luted cities dur­ing the past week to check how well the lo­cal gov­ern­ments were im­ple­ment­ing the State Coun­cil’s 10-ar­ti­cle rules on air pol­lu­tion con­trol.

They were dis­ap­pointed to find that in North China’s six most pol­luted cities — Bei­jing, Dezhou, Tian­jin, Xing­tai, Zhengzhou and Shi­ji­azhuang — more than 60 plants were vi­o­lat­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion rules by dis­charg­ing pol­lu­tants or emit­ting toxic gases. In Tang­shan city in He­bei prov­ince, 34 of the 46 plants they in­spected had en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems.

Worse, some plants even pos­sess the equip­ment nec­es­sary to treat the pol­lu­tants they dis­charge, but they never use them since do­ing so would in­crease their op­er­at­ing costs. While some plants that should have been closed be­cause of their out­dated pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties are still in oper­a­tion.

Even more wor­ry­ing, most lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion watch­dogs play hardly any role in over­see­ing and check­ing pol­lut­ing en­ter­prises, and many de­vices in­stalled to mon­i­tor the dis­charge of pol­lu­tants do not work at all.

De­spite the re­solve to deal with pol­lu­tion and trans­form the mode of de­vel­op­ment the top au­thor­i­ties have dis­played, it will clearly take much longer than ex­pected for their re­solve and the State Coun­cil rules to be turned into real ac­tion at the lo­cal level.

Most lo­cal gov­ern­ments turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the vi­o­la­tions of en­vi­ron­men­tal rules by the en­ter­prises un­der their aus­pice. They’re afraid of los­ing rev­enue from them and hikes in un­em­ploy­ment if they close them or force them to ren­o­vate their pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties.

With­out break­ing the bar­rier of lo­cal pro­tec­tion­ism, we can hardly ex­pect that the blue-sky days will last long.

With­out chang­ing the mind­set of lo­cal lead­ers so they fo­cus on sus­tain­abil­ity, we see no hope of the air qual­ity tak­ing a real turn for the bet­ter in the near fu­ture.

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