No environmental shortcuts
The China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters is obscured by severe smog in Beijing on Tuesday. [Photo/IC]
Facing widespread public anger over the heavy smog swathing much of North and Northeast China in early November, Heilongjiang and Hebei provinces, which were the two major sources of the air pollution, made different responses.
In Heilongjiang province, where the air quality index readings in Daqing were 500 for 24 hours and severe air pollution lasted for about 37 hours, only one day of heavy pollution was registered by the government, which issued an orange alert instead of a red one. In stark contrast, the government in Hebei province took iron-handed measures and held accountable a total of 487 officials and company heads.
Due to the unclear divisions of responsibilities and the lack of effective supervision in the past, some enterprises have turned a blind eye to their responsibilities for environmental protection in the pursuit of their economic interests, which has taken its toll on the environment and damaged people's health. This has also resulted in the phenomenon of "enterprises pollute, people suffer and the government pays the bill".
Under the country's new law on environmental protection, which puts in place an explicit responsibility and accountability mechanism, the responsibility for local enterprises refusing to fulfill their environmental protection duties now mainly lies with the local government.
Past practices indicate that serious pollution always involves dereliction of duty or misuse of power by government officials.
A good environment depends on clearly defining the responsibilities among the different government departments concerned, their effective implementation of responsibilities and duties, and an effective supervisory and accountability mechanism. Otherwise, no matter how well-contrived the measures for environmental protection are they will be to no avail.
There is no shortcut to environmental protection. Government departments have to effectively play their supervisory role and punish any enterprises that dare to cross the red line.