The number of tip-offs against polluters provided to China's environmental watchdog by the public has doubled annually since a hotline was set up in 2004, a senior official said on Tuesday.
"The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) received about 800 tip-offs against various polluters in the first half of this year," said Tian Weiyong, deputy environmental supervision chief of SEPA, in an online interview on the official website of the central government.
Several projects have been suspended due to protests from local residents as public awareness on environmental protection continues to grow.
"Public participation is one of the most effective tools that Chinese environmental administrations can count on to tackle environmental issues," Tian said.
China opened a national hotline "12369" on environment protection in 2001 and now it processes about 1 million complaints annually and hands over them to local environment authorities.
SEPA is working on several policies to encourage more Chinese citizens to take part in fighting pollution and make their participation easier, Tian said.
SEPA plans to set up a 12369-complaint process center itself, with which serious and complicated cases could be processed quickly, he said.
"We will also give more support to non-governmental environmental organizations as most of them are playing positive roles," he said, "and we will work with the judicial departments on promoting public awareness about environmental lawsuits," Tian said.
"We hope the courts will be more open to environment lawsuits and thus help curb polluters," he said.
Most cases against polluters at Chinese courts are filed by direct victims.
The SEPA has just blacklisted 1,162 companies and projects in four main river valleys for polluting river water. Some were closed, others suspended or fined. But people worry that the polluters might come back once SEPA sets its eyes on other regions without proper supervision.
(Xinhua News Agency September 5, 2007)