East China's Zhejiang Province will tighten the reins over industries involved in pharmaceutical, chemical, cement and poisonous matter production through stricter environmental approval and examination, as the pressure from local residents to protect their environment is mounting.
An official survey found these industries were the focus of the local people's complaints.
"The concerns from the public show that local people are having a stronger environmental awareness as a result of the improvement of their living standards," said Dai Beijun, director of the Zhejiang Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau.
"People's complaints over environmental problems impel the government to pay more attention to environmental protection."
Authorities will closely examine the potential effect of industries' projects on the environment before giving the green light on construction. Companies causing environmental problems will be forced to shut down, Dai told China Daily.
In addition, projects near main rivers and lakes will not be approved, Dai added.
The crackdown on environmental violators comes as Zhejiang Province struggles to balance environmental protection and economic development.
Zhejiang handled four cases of pollution disputes between local people and polluting firms this year. A week ago, hundreds of angry farmers from Meishan Town of Changxing County staged a weeklong protest against a local battery factory that gravely polluted the area. Some people broke into the factory and set it ablaze, causing losses of 5 million yuan (US$616,500).
To better solve complaints, an emergency system will be formed in all county government departments by the end of 2005, according to officials from the Zhejiang Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau.
"Zhejiang faces grave challenges posed by environmental problems and we realize the situation is serious," Dai said. "We have been trying our best to cope with environmental problems, which require years of efforts." Environmental deterioration will be under control in 2007 and Zhejiang will see a qualitative change in the overall situation by 2020, Dai added.
This year, the province has already invested over 5 billion yuan (US$616.5 million) in environmental protection to harness industrial polluting sources and build other projects to improve the local environment.
Most of the province's waterways, including its eight biggest rivers, inland rivers and major lakes, have measured up to the standards set by the government. Air quality is also fine in urban areas, according to the latest report from the bureau.
"Developing a recycle-orientated economy is the way for Zhejiang to achieve a balance between economic development and environmental protection and realize the strategic restructuring of the economy," Dai said.
(China Daily September 1, 2005)