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Legislators to Legalize Environmental Assessment

Legislators are considering the establishment of a strategic environmental assessment system to evaluate the consequences of governmental policies and planning on the environment and to ensure sustainable development in the country.

Such a system will be legalized by a draft law on environmental consequence assessments which was debated by legislators attending the 19th session of the Ninth National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee on December 27.

Environmental consequence assessment refers to the analysis, anticipation and evaluation of possible consequences that certain policies, planning and projects will have on the environment. It also encompasses solutions to prevent negative impacts upon the environment and methods for follow-up inspections.

The draft law states that governments at and above city level should organize environmental consequence assessments and submit reports on them before making regional exploitation, industrial development and natural resource exploitation policies or plans that might bring about negative environmental consequences.

Under the same scrutiny will come land use schemes, city planning projects and other specific industrial, agricultural, forestry, energy, water resource, communication and tourism plans, as well as construction.

The 1979 Environmental Protection Law legalized environmental consequence assessments on construction projects. Consequently over 90 percent of projects constructed between 1991 and 1995 were evaluated using environmental protection standards, said NPC sources.

The new draft law was proposed by the NPC Environmental and Resources Protection Committee at the ongoing session for preliminary readings. A draft can become a law after legislators have participated in three readings, according to the Legislative Procedure Law.

“The law will offer solid support to the policy-making process. This is especially important as the country starts its strategic exploitation of its western landlocked regions,” said legislator Dai Zhengliang.

Legislator Xie Youqing shared Dai’s views. He said, “Directors of government institutions that refuse to carry out such assessments should receive administrative punishment.”

To ensure the assessments are fair and honest, Xie proposed that all assessment work be handled by professional evaluation agencies.

(People’s Daily 12/28/2000)

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