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SEPA to Clamp Down on Tangshan Polluters

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) is clamping down on steel producers that are causing serious ecological problems in Hebei Province's Tangshan region, said Vice Minister Pan Yue on Monday.

But Pan said that officials who ignore the need for environmental protection are the main culprits. Prosperity cannot be built at the cost of the environment and ecology must be a priority in sustainable development of the regional economy.

Tangshan residents have been complaining about local pollution.

Working on a tip-off, SEPA dispatched a task force to inspect several enterprises in the area. Their investigation revealed that all seven steel companies lacked environmental protection approval and were built illegally.

None of the factories had facilities to deal with pollutants and drainage was also a problem. Much of the production equipment used was out of date and its use prohibited by the state. Some of the enterprises were expanding their facilities, but not improving them.

The local steel industry has been booming since 2000.

The failure of local government officials to adhere to or enforce China's laws on environmental protection is a longstanding problem. Pursuit of economic growth and local protectionism are often given priority over environmental protection.

SEPA is demanding that this obsolete mode of industrial development be abandoned and calling on local governments to take the lead in pushing a healthy and scientific economic development.

Pan said that tougher punishment is needed to cure this persistent disease of pollution. The steel enterprises uncovered through the investigation are to be shut down and severe financial penalties imposed to deter illegal behavior.

(China Daily August 24, 2004)

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