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Environment Watchdog Slams Local Governments
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China's State Administration of Environment Protection (SEPA) has revealed that environmental statistics released by some local governments are false and local pollution indices have been fabricated.


A SEPA official said that according to the figures submitted by the 26 regional governments, the goal set by the central government of reducing main pollutants by 2 percent this year should have been reached.


However, the reality is that the chemical oxygen demand (COD) and sulfur dioxide, China's two main pollutants, increased by 2 percent in 2006, according to SEPA's calculations.


"The figures on pollution control reported by the local government dropped remarkably this year, while the real environmental situation continues to deteriorate," said an official with SEPA.


"The inaccurate figures were caused by insufficient supervision of the local governments and possible fabrication," said the official.


"Under the great pressure of assessment, some local governments have fabricated the environmental index," added Zhou Shengxian, director of SEPA.


The administration will send working groups to the provinces to check the local environmental statistics.


China has set a goal of reducing the emission of major pollutants by 10 percent during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010).


Further evidence of figures being doctored was revealed by a local government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, in Gansu Province.


The official said the province's sulfur dioxide emissions had been reduced by 6 percent and COD was down 4 percent during the first 11 months of this year. But the local governments only reported 2 percent for each of them to the public.


"Reducing emissions of major pollutants by two percent every year during the 11th five-year plan period is the basic requirement set by the central government. If the local governments reported their true achievements, it would place a heavier burden on them the following year," the official explained.


Heavy industry, which causes the most serious pollution, is the backbone of Gansu's economy. Most of the medium and small-sized enterprises are still using backward technology and techniques. But local governments are reluctant to sacrifice economic returns by shutting them down.


Zhou lambasted local authorities at the ongoing session of the Standing Committee of National Peoples Congress, China's top legislature, saying that local protectionism had resulted in rampant violation of the environment.


"In some places, officials still focus on economic growth and neglect environmental protection," said Zhou.


Some international environmental experts have warned that if no strong and effective measures are taken, China will fail to achieve its environmental goal set for the 11th Five-Year Plan period.


The China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), an international organization which advises the Chinese government, has submitted a report to the State Council calling for the SEPA to be elevated to full cabinet rank.


Xue Lan, the leading researcher of the team who compiled the report, said, "Although SEPA is already a ministerial-level department in China, the elevation to cabinet level will increase the authority of China's environmental departments and environmental issues will be given more consideration in major decisions taken by the Chinese government."


(Xinhua News Agency December 29, 2006)

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