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Environment a Key Concern
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It is necessary to reform the hierarchy of environmental protection departments in an effort to improve their work, says a commentary in Beijing News. An excerpt follows:


In his recent trip, a reporter from Xinhua News Agency found that many localities in central and west China intentionally ignored the environmental impact of industries to attract more investment.


After several years of urbanization and industrialization, the coastal areas are planning to upgrade their industrial structure, which means a large number of manufacturers will move into inland regions.


Some local governments view this transference as a good opportunity to attract investors. To embrace this chance, they lowered the environmental impact standard for these manufacturers, or even gave up the environmental impact assessment altogether.


This is really a worrying situation. The local governments are so eager to attract investment, which could be reflected in their political performance, that they actually sacrifice the interests of local people.


In such a situation, many local authorities in charge of environmental protection fail to play their due role. More dangerously, some even take an active part in luring investments by offering "cooperation."


When the provincial people's congress of Jiangxi Province looked into the serious pollution of local paper plants, all of them were found to have authentic passes from local environmental protection departments saying the factories did not emit pollutants against current rules.


Likewise, the factories emitting lead that poisoned more than 300 residents in Gansu Province are also under the umbrella of local environmental protection departments.


Public awareness of environmental protection has improved dramatically in recent years, while the progress of the related authorities has been less impressive.


As some experts have pointed out, the key to enhancing the jobs of environmental protection authorities is to reform the mechanism and hierarchy through which the environmental protection is implemented.


One of the solutions they suggest is for the environmental protection departments to become independent from local administration, so that they would be less influenced by the protectionism and have more room to impose strict supervision.


(China Daily September 28, 2006)

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