China's environmental NGOs have been called upon to play a bigger role in promoting and supervising environmental protection, now an important part of China's social and economic construction.
Zhu Guangyao, deputy head of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said in Beijing on Saturday that environmental protection in China has undergone historic changes.
"Environmental protection has become a major task of China's modernization. Environmental capacity has become a major consideration in planning development projects. Environmental administration has become a major means to adjust economic structure. Environmental standard has become a major condition for market access. Environmental cost has become a major factor in the price formulation mechanism," Zhu told a conference on sustainable growth of China's environmental NGOs.
He said the new circumstances have given non-governmental organizations (NGOs) more opportunities to advise the government on environmental affairs, protect the environmental rights and interests of the public, mobilize the public to participate in environmental protection and promote international exchanges and cooperation in this field.
The conference was sponsored by nearly 400 Chinese environmental NGOs. China had 2,768 environmental NGOs representing 224,000 environmental activists by 2005.
Zeng Xiaodong, vice-chairman of the All-China Environment Federation, said China has 315,000 NGOs of various sorts representing more than 3 million people at present. The number of environmental NGOs remains relatively not big enough.
However, he predicted the number of China's environmental NGOs and environmental activists will grow fast in the coming five to ten years.
Activities of China's environmental NGOs include educating the public about the importance of environmental protection, promoting methods to cut consumption of electricity and water, championing environmental petitions, and organizing activities to clean the environment.
The legal service center under the All-China Environment Federation, for instance, has provided legal assistance to victims of 68 pollution incidents since its establishment more than a year ago.
"It has helped the government to resolve 12 environmental pollution cases, which affected the interests of tens of thousands of people. It also played a role in dissolving several mass protests," said Zeng.
SEPA deputy head Zhu Guangyao said the public enjoys the right to know the environmental situation and participate in and supervise environmental protection work.
"China's environmental NGOs have safeguarded the environmental rights and interests of the public through providing legal assistance and caring for the interests of disadvantaged groups," said Zhu.
(Xinhua News Agency October 30, 2006)