Regional supervision has been identified by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) as the way forward in effectively curbing those involved in illegal environmental activities.
SEPA is to quickly establish five regional environmental protection supervision centers in the east, south, northwest, southwest and northeast China.
According to SEPA Minister Zhou Shengxian, one of the major tasks of SEPA this year is to improve the system of supervision for environmental law enforcement. There required to be clearly defined powers and responsibilities, standardized approaches to issues, a strengthening of the supervisory powers, and that the entire operation had to be managed in a highly efficient manner.
The authority of SEPA is demonstrated through supervising law enforcement, Zhou said. The five centers are being set up to ensure coordination between local environmental protection agencies and joint initiatives in law enforcement would be established within the year.
The centers are law enforcement supervisory bodies and will represent SEPA. They're to be staffed by 160 people. As public institutions they'll report directly to SEPA and are accountable to SEPA. They don't have the authority to issue instructions on the daily work of local environmental protection agencies.
With SEPA's authority the supervision centers have eight main duties:
1) Supervise local governments in implementing state environmental protection-related policies, rules and standards;
2) Hold investigations into cases of serious pollution and ecological damage;
3) Settle environmental disputes in trans-provincial area and river drainage;
4) Supervise the response/handling of unexpected environmental incidents;
5) Undertake or participate in the checking of environmental law enforcement;
6) Exercise supervision over the design, construction and operation of environmental protection facilities in state-approved construction projects;
7) Supervise environmental law enforcement in state-level nature reserves and key ecological protection areas; and
8) Manage visits and complaints relating to trans-provincial pollution and ecological damage
According to the 11th Five-Year Plan for Strengthening the State Environmental Protection Supervision Power (2006-2010), it'll take SEPA five years to establish a nationwide environmental quality supervisory network, improve the law enforcement system and enhance environmental facilities.
(China.org.cn by Zhang Tingting, July 25, 2006)