Over 18,000 pe­nal­ized for fail­ing to rein in pol­lu­tion

Two-year, high-level in­spec­tions saw com­pa­nies fined 1.43b yuan

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHENG JINRAN zhengjin­ran@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The big­gest en­vi­ron­men­tal in­spec­tion ever in China — cov­er­ing 31 pro­vin­cial re­gions over two years — led to 18,199 gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials be­ing pun­ished for their fail­ure to con­trol pol­lu­tion, it was an­nounced on Thurs­day.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment in­spec­tors ex­posed 135,000 cases, many fea­tur­ing com­mon prob­lems such as weak en­force­ment of reg­u­la­tions to im­prove air and water qual­ity, said Liu Changgen, deputy di­rec­tor of the Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal In­spec­tion Of­fice.

“The in­spec­tions mo­ti­vated lo­cal gov­ern­ments to show their full strength in com­bat­ing pol­lu­tion, with tough penal­ties meted out to the vast num­ber of of­fi­cials who failed in their du­ties,” he said.

About 29,000 com­pa­nies were also fined a com­bined 1.43 bil­lion yuan ($218 mil­lion) for fail­ing to meet stan­dards to re­duce pol­lu­tion, while 1,527 peo­ple were de­tained for po­ten­tial crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

Over a se­ries of month­long in­spec­tions, the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion found some lo­cal gov­ern­ments had “per­formed poorly by show­ing neg­li­gence, in­ac­tion and a re­fusal to im­ple­ment con­trols”, said Liu, whose of­fice is part of the min­istry.

The No 1 prob­lem was the se­vere air and water pol­lu­tion that had oc­curred in some places be­cause lo­cal author­i­ties had not taken ef­fec­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal mea­sures, lead­ing to pub­lic con­cern.

For ex­am­ple, in Sichuan prov­ince’s Zigong, the con­cen­tra­tion of sul­fur diox­ide in the air in­creased by 32.5 per­cent in the first half of 2017, while qual­ity tests showed only 11.1 per­cent of the city’s water was above the na­tional stan­dard in 2016, com­pared with 50 per­cent in 2013, the in­spec­tion team re­ported to the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment.

Na­tion­ally, in­spec­tors found a lack of fa­cil­i­ties to process the daily waste from ur­ban re­gions, with 12 mil­lion met­ric tons of un­treated sewage dis­charged di­rectly into water­ways, Liu said on Thurs­day.

In re­sponse, cities have ac­cel­er­ated con­struc­tion of treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties, such as Guang­dong prov­ince’s Shen­zhen, which has started to ex­pand its sewage net­work by 2,000 kilo­me­ters.

In­spec­tion teams also dis­cov­ered il­le­gal and ex­ces­sive ex­ploita­tion of mines, water re­sources and wet­lands, in­clud­ing in Hainan and Shan­dong prov­inces, which showed that de­ci­sion-mak­ers had not been pay­ing close at­ten­tion, Liu said.

“Next year, our teams will re­visit these prov­inces to check whether the prob­lems have been solved,” he added. “In­spec­tions in each place lasted for only a month, but the mes­sage they sent to of­fi­cials — to pro­tect and im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment — should last a long time.”

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