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Gov't Sets Up Environment Think Tank
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On August 18, China set up a think tank comprising two advisory committees to assist the central government in creating effective policies on environmental protection issues.

Eighty-six environmental protection experts were selected as members of the think tank, the State Environment Counsel Committee and the Science and Technology Committee for the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said Zhou Shengxian, head of SEPA, in an interview with Xinhua.

"China is facing a great deal of environment challenges and this is a time when democracy in policy making is vital," Zhou said. "And the era of SEPA monopolizing the decision-making process is set to end."

Among the advisors are 30 academicians with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and retired SEPA officials.

"In the past, our gravest mistake was that we made environmental protection decisions without using scientific and democratic means," said Qu Geping, a committee member and former SEPA chief.

"The setting up of this think tank is an unprecedented and important move," Qu added.

Ma Zhong, another committee member and professor of the People's University in Beijing, said people from outside SEPA can provide more objective opinions and prevent bureaucracy in decision-making.

"SEPA will listen to the committees for all major decisions in the future," Zhou said. "No policies should be made without research, expert assessment and debate."

(Xinhua News Agency August 21, 2006)

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