Environmental data should be specific

Updated: 2013-08-08 07:59

By Hou Liqiang (China Daily)

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Experts said more details of the clauses on environmental information are needed after the Beijing government made public a draft regulation on government information disclosure on Tuesday.

Public comment on the draft will be collected through Aug 21.

As requested last year in a notice issued by the State Council, eight kinds of information are listed as key ones the government should make public.

As one of the eight items, environmental protection information includes information concerning the inspection, examination and approval of environmental issues, monitoring and major incidents.

Meanwhile, the notice also details some information that should be included in each aspect.

For example, monitoring information that should be made public includes a description of pollutants exceeding the standard, water quality of key rivers, air quality of key cities and pollution sources.

Although the draft mentions the environmental protection information, it doesn't elaborate on the details.

Residents can apply in writing for additional information with their identification cards.

According to the draft, a reply should be made within 15 days and a delay of no more than 15 days can be made with the consent of a supervising official and notification to the applicants.

Li Bo, secretary-general of Friends of Nature, an environmental NGO, said the draft is still far from meeting the public's needs.

"Environmental information published nowadays is usually full of data the public cannot understand," Li said, "The public cannot know how they will be affected by the data."

Li suggested the draft should clearly specify which media the government can use to publicize the information, especially the environmental impact assessment, which directly affects public health.

"They could put it in a corner of a website, where people are less likely to see," Li said.

"If people are not checking the official website every day, they may never know the information has been published."

If the public is not aware of the data, they will not be able to voice opposition, and some projects with serious pollution may be launched, Li added.

Fu Siming, a professor of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said environmental information is related to people's well being, and the clause on environmental information needs to be more specific.

"An unspecific clause may offer the government an excuse to not make some information public," Fu said.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs, said: "The clause is too simple. At least in Beijing, it may not be helpful in promoting the publicity of environmental information."