The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said it
will stand firm in combating government-backed violations that have
prevented protection and preservation efforts in recent years.
"SEPA has set up two regional environmental watchdogs in
Guangzhou and Shanghai and will launch another three in Chengdu,
Xi'an, and Shenyang over the next four months to ensure local
governments abide by environmental protection laws, as well as meet
standards in regional economic development," Zhang Lijun, a deputy
director of SEPA, said in Guangzhou of south China's Guangdong Province.
"This is an important step toward removing local protectionism,
a major obstacle in our law enforcement."
Zhang Jianming, head of the south China watchdog, said his
administration has mediated in a number of inter-provincial
pollution disputes since it was launched three years ago. The
watchdog was also credited with helping local authorities solve
several severe pollution incidents including the cadmium spill
along the Beijiang River in December 2005. The spill threatened
drinking and agricultural water supplies in Guangdong.
Cadmium, a metallic element widely used in batteries, can cause
liver and kidney damage and lead to bone diseases. Compounds
containing cadmium are also carcinogenic.
China suffered a string of environmental disasters last year,
including a lead poisoning accident caused by a factory in Gansu Province that hospitalized about 250
children and left hundreds of others with abnormally high levels of
lead in their blood.
Last September, two factories in Yueyang, Hunan Province, flushed wastewater with a high
concentration of arsenide into the Xinqiang River. The incident
affected the water supply for 80,000 residents along the lower
reaches of the river.
"Governments are almost always behind these seemingly corporate
behaviors -- local authorities sometimes tolerate environmental
violations as they want to boost economic growth," said Pan Yue,
another SEPA deputy director.
He said the refusal and failure of governments to fulfill
environmental responsibilities and interference in law enforcement
are the main reasons for some of the country's persistent
Pan also urged China's legislature to amend its 17-year-old
Environmental Proetection Law to hold government officials
accountable for pollution.
(Xinhua News Agency March 2, 2007)