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Regulation Entrenches Public Rights in Environment Protection
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China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) is fine-tuning a regulation that will entrench the public's right of participation in environmental protection. According to Xu Kezhu, principal of the legislative workgroup and deputy director of the Environmental Resources Research & Service Center with China University of Political Science and Law (CUPSL), the framework of the regulation has been drafted.


Divided into six parts, the regulation comprises general principles, supplementary articles, rules pertaining to publicizing environment related information, soliciting and collecting public opinion, supervision and remedial action, and accountability under the law.


Xu said that this would be the first regulation constituted specifically on the basis of public participation in administrative affairs.


Departments in charge of environment issues are obliged to hold public hearings before making decisions on any project that might affect the public's rights and interests.


The regulation also focuses on the procedures to be employed for public participation, and it will be illegal to refuse the public to be involved or to violate the set procedures.


In terms of public supervision and remedial action, the draft indicates that the public has rights of participation and the government is obliged to publish all relevant information. If enterprises and environmental protection departments are found guilty of nonfeasance or oversight, the public can put forward their demurral or objections in accordance with their rights of supervision.


Xu added that the regulation will contain specific provisions under which the public may make a legal appeal. 


With regard to specific environmental affairs where local departments are judged not to have given a particular adequate attention, the public can seek redress with SEPA. And if SEPA doesn't provide a satisfactory solution, the regulation can be used by the public as a basis for seeking formal legal redress.


The drafting of the regulation is being undertaken by the Environmental Resources Research & Service Center of CUPSL, which is an unofficial institute. Several other unofficial environmental protection organizations such as Friends of Nature also participated in the research and discussion of the draft.


The addition of provisions promoting the contribution of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is also being considered.


Xu said the workgroup is also mulling the possibility of according NGOs with tasks including social investigation, an option which could ease the pressure on government departments and boost NGO development.


( by Zhou Jing May 18, 2006)

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