Local governments should stick to their responsibilities in protecting the environment, says a commentary in Beijing Youth Daily. An excerpt follows:
After the media reported the mass poisoning by lead emissions from nearby factories in Huixian County of Gansu Province days ago, the poisoned villagers received proper medical care and several factories causing the lead pollution have been shut down.
This is quite a speedy reaction reflecting the attention by governments at all levels to public health as well as environmental protection.
However, governments at all levels should also draw a lesson from the accident. Precautions are more important than repairs after the fact.
According to investigations by some reporters, on several occasions local authorities tried to cover up the severe pollution caused by the lead belched out by local factories.
The drying up of soybean plants, the medical reports by big hospitals on the high levels of lead in people's blood and many other solid proofs of the pollution were intentionally ignored. Local people even got a formal answer from some governmental branches, saying "the so-called environmental pollution has never existed."
The dereliction of duty by the local government and environmental bureau can only make them lose credit among the people.
Some local governments still put growth before everything else, including the environment and people's health. Before the pollution becomes severe, the government turns a blind eye towards, or even protects, the polluters. To ensure so-called "smooth economic development," it will not listen to the public on checking pollution.
When the pollution was reported by the media, local authorities were forced to make instant reactions, like shutting down the polluters or making compensation to the victims.
With such a mentality, it is impossible for the local governments to build an environmentally friendly economy.
It is local governments' duty to guide enterprises and make them do their part in protecting the environment.
(China Daily September 20, 2006)