Respect for the public's right to know is vital to environmental protection, says a signed article in People's Daily. An excerpt follows:
Ma Jun, an environmental protectionist, compiled a data bank on China's water pollution based on government environmental information reports. But Ma found that more than 100 cities have no public environmental information.
This means that ordinary citizens have no way to know about the environmental situation where they live: how many days of clean air they have in a year; if the rivers beside their homes are polluted; whether emissions from the factory next door are within acceptable standards.
The public is increasingly concerned about environmental protection while their right to know is ignored. There are three possible causes. First, the relevant departments are not aware of the public's interest. Second, the environmental quality of some regions and enterprises cannot meet required standards so they dare not publicize the information. Third, some government departments keep the information confidential to avoid public complaints and demands for environmental controls.
Authorities at the State Environmental Protection Administration advocate building a unified front for environmental protection and stress the importance of public participation. In Fuyang, in East China's Zhejiang Province, environmental quality is publicized regularly and the public is invited to make inspections.
Such practices have mobilized public interest and put pressure on enterprises. Experience has shown that guaranteeing the public right to know encourages environmental protection, rather than stirring up trouble.
(China Daily April 25, 2007)