Heavy price for polluter

(China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-10 08:04
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In order to fulfill compulsory quotas for outside investments, a local environmental protection bureau introduced a dangerous polluting factory that despite being ordered to suspend production for rectification by higher levels of government secretly continued operations.

Despite an initial medical report that ruled out any abnormalities the county government of Huaining, Anhui province confirmed that high doses of lead have been found in blood samples from more than 100 children living near a factory.

The matter caused a public uproar; the head of the local environmental protection bureau was suspended, and the company responsible is under official investigation.

The local environmental protection bureau is responsible not only for the supervision and monitoring of environmental pollution in the county, but also for attracting foreign investment.

Both parties are to blame. The factory defied repeated instructions for rectification and the county's environmental protection bureau failed to stop its violations.

But although the story appears to be coming to an end with the two main culprits identified and soon to be disciplined, the liability does not stop there.

That the battery factory in Huaining managed to ignore orders from higher-level environmental authorities for rectification had a lot to do with the local watchdog's tacit consent, or acquiescence.

The disregarding of government agencies and conflicts of interest create very dangerous risks.

The local government should not appear as if it is a disinterested third party in this unseemly episode.

Many other local authorities have resorted to the same trick of all-round mobilization in bidding for outsider investments.

The government of Huaining has only followed what had been practised for decades.

Among 3,000 or so similar battery manufacturing enterprises in the country, reportedly only 1,200 have obtained a formal permit from the government. Why is that? Does the problem exposed in Huaining exist in other places?

A number of questions need to be asked and answered at higher levels.