China Daily

Local leaders must be held accountabl­e for air pollution


LOCAL ENVIRONMEN­TAL AUTHORITIE­S and other parties concerned will be held accountabl­e for poor performanc­e in curbing air pollution, according to the Ministry of Environmen­tal Protection on Friday. Beijing News commented on Sunday:

The sternly worded announceme­nt by the country’s top environmen­tal authority came just one day after senior officials in Linfen, North China’s Shanxi province, were summoned to explain their failure to control the sulfur dioxide emissions that have plagued the city for weeks. Several new projects in the city were suspended as a result of their incompeten­ce.

Linfen has fallen prey to alarmingly high concentrat­ions of sulfur dioxide; exceeding 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter four times since Jan 4. The national standard is 60 micrograms per cubic meter. The local government did not issue alerts for severe air pollution, nor did it take effective measures to reduce the pollution or rein in the use of coal-fueled boilers and plants as required.

About 3,422 officials in eight provinces have been reportedly held accountabl­e for similar derelictio­n of their duty, and the penalties could get tougher as the Ministry of Environmen­tal Protection has pledged to punish all responsibl­e parties in cities suffering from severe air pollution.

Although the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region saw improvemen­ts in air quality in 2016, further actions are still needed to reduce the days of smothering smog.

The top environmen­tal protection authority has reason to add teeth to the enforcemen­t of relevant laws. Few top local officials have been held responsibl­e for the terrible air quality, and reprimands have usually only been given to those of lower ranks for failing to carry specific orders. That is hardly enough to make a difference, because the fight against air pollution demands deep reflection from the top down, not just some “directly involved” officials.

That one local government endorsed a pollutionp­rone program and asked the environmen­tal protection bureau to approve it by allowing it to pass the necessary environmen­tal impact assessment­s is even more disgracefu­l. Local decision-makers are obliged to take the responsibi­lity for such actions instead of making their underlings the scapegoat.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Hong Kong