Lo­cal govts need more green aware­ness

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

While of­fer­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion feed­backs to the gov­ern­ment of East China’s Fu­jian prov­ince on Mon­day, the cen­tral en­vi­ron­men­tal in­spec­tion team said the good eco­log­i­cal foun­da­tion of the prov­ince had prompted some lo­cal of­fi­cials to be overop­ti­mistic about the health of the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment and thus not ad­dress the en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems, which un­der­mined the ef­forts to pre­serve the unique lo­cal ma­rine ecol­ogy.

The en­vi­ron­ment in­spec­tion team also dis­cov­ered that the lo­cal gov­ern­ment had failed to fully aban­don lo­cal poli­cies and rules by June 2015, as re­quired by the top au­thor­i­ties, which in turn ob­structed en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion mon­i­tor­ing.

What shocked the in­spec­tion team most is the Shishi lo­cal gov­ern­ment con­ven­ing a “spe­cial meeting” in De­cem­ber 2015 to urge the city’s en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion bureau to re­voke an ad­min­is­tra­tive pun­ish­ment im­posed on a lo­cal en­ter­prise for vi­o­lat­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion law. The lo­cal gov­ern­ment’s move amounted to con­niv­ing with the en­ter­prise to breach the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion law.

That some lo­cal gov­ern­ments have a “tol­er­ant” at­ti­tude to­ward lo­cal en­ter­prises’ ac­tions which vi­o­late the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion law is not news as such. But the Shishi lo­cal gov­ern­ment in Fu­jian has set a par­tic­u­larly bad ex­am­ple by call­ing a spe­cial meeting to “par­don” an en­ter­prise which had bro­ken the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion law, es­pe­cially be­cause such lo­cal of­fi­cials’ be­hav­ior are rarely re­ported by lo­cal me­dia out­lets.

Had the cen­tral en­vi­ron­men­tal in­spec­tion team not dis­cov­ered the se­vere breach of the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion law, or na­tional me­dia out­lets not re­ported it, the pub­lic would not have known that a lo­cal gov­ern­ment has gone so far as to pro­tect a law-break­ing en­ter­prise in or­der to im­prove its per­for­mance with higher eco­nomic growth.

Why do some lo­cal gov­ern­ments still in­dulge in such mal­prac­tices?

The fun­da­men­tal rea­son for that lies in the coun­try’s en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion mon­i­tor­ing and man­age­ment sys­tem. China’s lo­cal­ized en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion bu­reaus do not have the power to pre­vent Shishi-like mal­prac­tices or to pun­ish the vi­o­la­tors. So un­til the lo­cal­ized en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion man­age­ment sys­tem is thor­oughly re­formed, it will be dif­fi­cult to elim­i­nate such mal­prac­tices.

The Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion is the supreme ad­min­is­tra­tive or­gan un­der the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment for en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion su­per­vi­sion and man­age­ment. And pro­vin­cial- and lower-level en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion bu­reaus are set up un­der the aus­pices of cor­re­spond­ing level gov­ern­ments. In other words, th­ese en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion bu­reaus are usu­ally un­der the dual lead­er­ship of their lo­cal gov­ern­ments and higher-level en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion au­thor­i­ties.

But due to sev­eral fac­tors, such as the asym­met­ri­cal fis­cal and per­son­nel man­age­ment power, the lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion bu­reaus end up func­tion­ing un­der their re­spec­tive lo­cal gov­ern­ments. How else can one ex­plain the Shishi lo­cal gov­ern­ment’s move to urge the lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion bureau to “re­peal” the ad­min­is­tra­tive pun­ish­ment it had meted out to an en­ter­prise for vi­o­lat­ing the law?

The loop­holes in the du­al­lead­er­ship sys­tem of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion were ex­posed years ago, which should be plugged as early as pos­si­ble. Last year, the top au­thor­i­ties de­cided to change the coun­try’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment­dom­i­nant en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion man­age­ment sys­tem and adopt a ver­ti­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal in­spec­tion sys­tem un­der the pro­vin­cial-level gov­ern­ments and planned to com­plete the re­form within two to three years based on “ex­per­i­men­tal” mea­sures.

It is now clear that to pre­vent Shishi-like fi­as­coes, the au­thor­i­ties should cre­ate fa­vor­able con­di­tions for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the ver­ti­cal man­age­ment sys­tem for en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion agen­cies.

The au­thor is a Chengdu-based free­lance writer, and the ar­ti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished in China Youth Daily.

In Septem­ber 2013, Toshi­nao Nak­a­gawa, an LDP mem­ber of the lower house of par­lia­ment who is mar­ried and has three chil­dren, had a mock wed­ding cer­e­mony with his mis­tress in Hawaii in the pres­ence of a church­man. Apol­o­giz­ing to his vot­ers for his mis­deed, which he de­scribed as “lack of virtue”, Nak­a­gawa has left the LDP and stepped down as vice-min­is­ter of econ­omy, trade and in­dus­try. But he con­tin­ues to re­tain his up­per house seat and has said he will con­test it when his term ex­pires in De­cem­ber 2018 (if Abe does not call a snap elec­tion).

Eriko Imai, a mem­ber of the up­per house and a sin­gle mother, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, has been hav­ing an af­fair with Ken Hashimoto, a mem­ber of the Mu­nic­i­pal Assem­bly of Kobe city and a mar­ried man with two chil­dren. Both are LDP mem­bers.

The scan­dals have added to the LDP’s woes. The burn­ing hot sum­mer seems to be scalding the em­bat­tled prime min­is­ter. To win back pub­lic sup­port, he agreed to be grilled by op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers at an ad hoc par­lia­men­tary hear­ing for sus­pected crony­ism on July 24-25. The op­po­si­tion claims Abe had in­ter­vened to help Kake Gakuen, an ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion whose di­rec­tor Ko­taro Kake is a long-time friend, get the ap­proval for open­ing a vet­eri­nary school in a spe­cial eco­nomic zone.

To­momi Inada, an Abe pro­tégé who shares his con­ser­va­tive val­ues, re­signed as Ja­pan’s de­fense min­is­ter on July 28 over al­le­ga­tions that she might have cov­ered up in­for­ma­tion re­lated to Ja­pan Ground Self-De­fense Force’s op­er­a­tions dur­ing a United Na­tions peace­keep­ing mis­sion in South Su­dan.

Abe reshuf­fled his cab­i­net on Thurs­day, in a bid to save his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. But to re­gain the trust of the Ja­panese peo­ple, he needs to fo­cus on his eco­nomic ini­tia­tives so as to spur growth, which he promised while tak­ing of­fice in late 2012. But he has been pre­oc­cu­pied with sev­eral un­pop­u­lar bills such as se­cu­rity-re­lated leg­is­la­tion that for the first time al­lows Ja­pan Self-De­fense Forces to fight abroad.

The Ja­panese peo­ple are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly skep­ti­cal about the ef­fec­tive­ness of Abe’s poli­cies. And Abe has not done enough to de­liver on his prom­ises of im­prov­ing the econ­omy and changing work­place culture.

When peo­ple in Ja­pan don’t have to work long hours, they will have more time to ex­plore the spir­i­tual world and ad­dress their li­bido. Ja­panese peo­ple’s ab­sti­nence means fewer and fewer ba­bies, which could be dis­as­trous for the coun­try. Ja­pan’s Na­tional In­sti­tute of Pop­u­la­tion and So­cial Se­cu­rity Re­search projects the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion will plum­met from 127 mil­lion now to 88 mil­lion by 2065, and fur­ther to 51 mil­lion by 2115 if the cur­rent trends con­tinue.

The toxic com­bi­na­tion of a low fer­til­ity rate and an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion will add to the gloomy prospects of the coun­try, which has the high­est amount of pub­lic debt in the world.

So un­til the lo­cal­ized en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion man­age­ment sys­tem is thor­oughly re­formed, it will be dif­fi­cult to elim­i­nate such mal­prac­tices.

CAI MENG / CHINA DAILY

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