Polluters feel heat from new law

Updated: 2016-02-16 08:02

By Xinhua(China Daily)

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More than 1.58 million companies have been inspected under the Environmental Protection Law that took effect at the start of 2015, toughening scrutiny on polluters and the procedures that allow them to exist.

Environmental authorities nationwide had punished 51,000 companies for excessive discharges and identified 73,400 illegal projects by the end of November, according to the latest official statistics.

The new law also targets local government responsibility for environmental protection.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection has restricted approvals for new projects in Beijing's Chaoyang district as well as parts of Tianjin municipality and Hebei, Henan and Hubei provinces as punishment for failures to meet environmental standards, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection's environmental inspection bureau.

Officials may be demoted or fired for concealing offenses, falsifying or failing to publicize environmental data, or not closing polluting enterprises.

The new law attempts to improve deterrence through fines that accumulate on a daily basis for companies that fail to rectify violations.

As of the end of November, environmental authorities issued punishments in 611 cases under this provision, collecting fines of 485 million yuan ($74.5 million).

In 2,511 cases, polluters were told to reduce or suspend production. Environmental agencies also transferred 1,478 cases for suspected criminal offenses.

Citizens can blow the whistle on polluters on WeChat.

"Whether this new law will have a substantial effect on China's environmental protection and help solve environmental woes hinges on authorities' will and capability to enforce it, as well as the awareness and participation of the public and enterprises," said Jia Feng, chief of the journal World Environment.

(China Daily 02/16/2016 page5)