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Insiders: Environmental Protection NGOs with Bright Future

Liang Congjie, an icon of China's environmentalists, said Tuesday China's non-governmental organizations (NGO) on environmental protection, despite problems like fund shortage, were facing a good development opportunities.

"NGOs were set to play a bigger role in environmental protection, as China is facing unprecedented pressure from environmental deterioration," said the 73-year-old environmentalist.

"We are happy to see that China is mobilizing all resources, including NGOs, to fight environmental pollution."

The old man founded China's first, and so far the biggest, grassroots environmental protection NGO, called "Friends of Nature" in 1994.

The emergence of "Friends of Nature" ushered in a new era of China's environmental protection NGOs.

So far, there are about 100 well-organized environmental protection NGOs on Chinese mainland, including the Friends of Nature, Global Village and Green Homeland.

These NGOs had shown their energy and won praise from both the Chinese government and the general public in the past decade.

China's environmental NGOs have launched a series of projects, like protection campaigns of the golden monkey in southwest China's province of Yunnan, the Tibetan antelopes, the Nujiang River in southwest China, and nationwide collection of wasted batteries.

Yet Liang told Xinhua in an interview that China's environmental NGOs were still weak with a short history.

"Compared with some other countries and regions, China's NGOs are still very young and our voices are usually weaker," said Liang, also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top advisory body.

"When some environment-damaging incidents occur, we could do almost nothing but make a public appeal."

Apart from the short history, Chinese environmental protection NGOs were also facing some other hurdles in their development.

A senior insider who refused to give his name said many NGOs often found themselves run into various problems even from the registration at the very beginning.

Besides, he complaint that the NGOs did not receive enough support from the local government and are always stuck in the mud of fund shortage.

In China, an NGO will never acquire the register permits unless it can find an official warrantor. The local governments, however, always tend to be hesitant to be the warrantors.

Therefore, said the insider, NGOs are usually forced either to register as a corporate legal entity, which has to pay quite a sum of taxes every year, or to run without registration, which make them easier to be closed.

Yet he said the Chinese government have already aware of the current situation of the NGOs and are paying more heeds to them.

Pan Yue, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said China is now in "a fierce battle" with the environmental problems, stressing that in this battle the NGOs are an indispensable part.

Liang said his "Friends of Nature" had been involved with many environmental protection actions taken by the SEPA.

"We have maintained a very good relationship with government departments, particularly with the SEPA," said Liang.

"NGOs and the SEPA were now supporting and helping each other."

Liang said China's environmental protection NGOs are facing a good opportunity for development and the NGOs should seize the opportunities to enhance their influences in intervening in and coordinating some environmental incidents.

(Xinhua News Agency July 12, 2005)

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