Officials punished for neglect of pollution

Updated: 2016-08-22 07:46

By Zheng Jinran(China Daily)

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Environmental inspection teams found more than 10,000 violations in 8 provinces, regions

More than 2,000 officials have been punished following an inspection of environmental matters in eight provinces and regions.

The State Council, China's cabinet, sent teams to conduct the inspections in mid-July, launching a large scale "accountability storm".

The monthlong inspection also provoked some provinces to initiate or renew efforts against pollution.

Over 10,870 offenses were exposed, and up to 2,000 officials received punishments, including suspensions, public criticism and lost promotions.

Officials punished for neglect of pollution

The first inspection teams went to Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Henan and Yunnan provinces, and the Inner Mongolia, Guangxi Zhuang and Ningxia Hui autonomous regions. A total of 14 provinces are expected to receive the central-level inspection this year, according to the National Environmental Protection Inspection Office.

Fines were also levied on polluters. Companies in two provinces - Jiangxi and Jiangsu - have so far been fined 100 million yuan ($15 million).

In addition to inspecting companies, governments from county to provincial levels were also put under the lens.

For example, inspectors found a metal-production plant was illegally discharging dust. The government of Yongning county in Ningxia, where the plant is located, had reported that the plant had been shut down since August 2015.

But inspectors found the plant was still operating, so the government head was summoned for poor performance and other officials responsible were suspended from leading positions.

Du Junfeng, deputy head of the environmental protection bureau of Inner Mongolia, said there would be several rounds of reviews in areas where problems had been exposed.

"The central-level inspections have worked well as a check on policymakers with tough punishments," said Ma Yong, an environmental researcher at a Supreme People's Court Law Center. "It also deterred the companies and government officials in other provinces with the tough punishments."

Though the central-level inspection has ended in eight provinces, some provinces, such as Henan, have set up their own investigation system to extend the effective control of pollution.

Zhengzhou, Henan province, has formed a number of teams to inspect its counties, an effort that will last until December 2017, making environmental inspections routine, Henan Business Daily reported.

Zhang Yu, a 28-year-old working in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, was excited to see the swift improvement in the environment,

"A small restaurant whose fumes stained the area near the chimney has stopped," Zhang said. "I heard some people reported it to the inspection team."

"I hope our province and cities will continue the inspections to create a better environment," she said.