Who guards the green guards?

Updated: 2013-02-21 10:07

By Wu Wenchong and Jiang Xueqing (China Daily)

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All lights are green

"Most of the projects under assessment will be passed eventually, it's always just a matter of time," said Zhao Zhangyuan, a former member of an expert team at the ministry's environmental and engineering appraisal center.

He said the fundamental problem is that the EIA agencies do not provide a public service, but are paid by the project owners. "For them, the EIA is nothing but a necessary step in getting their projects approved and they only care about getting a positive assessment. It's like a lawyer defending a client - you take the job, you get the money, but you certainly don't try to prove your client is guilty."

Moves to salvage the deeply flawed system have been under way since 2010. Wang said all levels of the environmental department are responsible for the evaluation of the assessment reports, but as most EIA agencies are affiliated to the department, a large question mark hangs over the impartiality of the system.

While the goal of the reform is to separate the EIA agencies from the environmental department, experts said the situation has barely changed in the three years since the changes were proposed.

Xia Jun, who has been a public interest lawyer in Beijing for 13 years, argued that the EIA agencies should apply a "credit system".

"A company's previous performance in environmental protection is not taken into account under the current EIA system," he said. "If companies have violated the environmental laws in the past, the requirements to get their projects passed by the EIA should be tougher than usual. If that were the case, companies would be more careful about environmental issues, because their past actions may affect their future."


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