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Working for Blue Skies in Taiyuan
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Liang Liming, 52, Party chief and director of Taiyuan Environmental Protection Agency, and her team dragged their city out of the bad air quality doldrums when it was ranked bottom air quality rankings of 47 key cities across the country. She and her team increased the number of Grade II air quality days to 224 in 2004, from 120 in 2001.


Dubbed "environment defender of Taiyuan City," Liang is dedicated to her environmental protection undertakings.

“There's more pressure on me, I feel, now that I've been named one of the ‘Figures of Green China in 2005'," Liang said.


Of the five awardees, Liang is the only civil servant. She readily offers that she should be held responsible if she doesn't do her job well.


“The environment quality of Taiyuan City has improved a lot in recent years. People can enjoy blue skies now, and they can look forward to more blue skies in the future,” she said.


“Thirty years ago, the Taiyuan sky was so gray that some people thought Taiyuan just didn't have blue skies. But pollution was to blame. We've changed that now," she added proudly.


As director of Taiyuan Environmental Protection Agency, she was and is in a good starting position for her environment protection work. “The municipal Party committee and government both attach great importance to the work of environmental protection. On May 11, 2004, a five-member team headed by Mayor Li Ronghuai was set up to supervise, coordinate and carry out the tasks, a first for the city, ” Liang said.


“Due to the city’s special industrial structure, fuel consuming structure and geographical location, we have to overcome more challenges than other cities. A government document or regulation won't solve the problem,” she adds.


Liang took the director’s position when the city was ranked No.47 in a list of 47 cities based on air quality. She set about implementing measures to get enterprises to meet national standards of pollution, shutting down old factories and facilities, and adjusting fuel consumption patterns.


It was hard work.


“There was this one coke plant that we wanted to demolish because it was a serious polluter. When we wanted to demolish the chimney, the boss of the place climbed up the chimney and dared to blow it up with him on it.


"He stayed up there for eight hours and there was a two-day standoff before we were finally able to do what we had to do," Liang recalls.


Other challenges stand in their way, irate laid-off workers, for example.


"My team members have been pelted by stones by frustrated workers laid off because we've had to shut their factories down for serious pollution violations," Liang said.


Despite this, many Taiyuan residents who voted for Liang said “the city needs more protectors like Liang.”


In her acceptance speech, Liang said, “Environmental protection undertakings cannot be completed by one person or a department. It needs the cooperation of all people from all walks of life. As long as every one of us is keeping an eye out for violations, and doing their bit to protect the environment, we can make great progress. This award is not for me alone, but for everyone who protects the environment, and of course for Taiyuan's three million citizens.”


( by Zhang Yunxing, February 20, 2006)

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