Environmental groups on Monday released the latest ratings on the transparency of national pollution databases, revealing that although progresses have been made, China still faces a daunting task to give more environmental information to the public.
Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, speaks at the press conference on Pollution Information Transparency Index in Beijing on Monday. [NRDC]
Set up by the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Pollution Information Transparency Index (PITI) completed its third annual assessment of pollution information disclosure in 113 cities for 2011.
The average PITI rating last year was 40.1 – compared to 31 in 2010 – but only 19 of 113 cities met the passing score of 60 out of 100.
"About 66 percent of the cities has increased their environment transparency compared with last year, but still, most of cities can't meet the pass line," IPE founder Ma Jun said.
Environmental transparency at its initial stage
This year's assessment shows China's mechanism for pollution transparency has been gradually put into place since policymakers passed the Environmental Information Disclosure Measures in 2008, Ma said.
"But most of the cities are only at the beginning stages of environmental information disclosure implementation."
The evaluation criteria of the PITI include records of violations of rules and standards, results of environmental petitions and complaint cases, disclosures upon requests, and five other items requiring local environmental bureaus to give out information on pollution through channels such as websites.
Among the assessment results, 12 of the 113 cities scored under 20, indicating those areas' pollution information either was very hard to get or was barely available in the first place, Ma said.
At the same time, he said, the scores also reveal huge variations in the level of disclosure from region to region.
Of the 113 cities chosen, 110 are key state environmental protection cities and are located throughout China's eastern, central, and western regions.
"In general, the eastern provinces outperform the central provinces, while the central provinces outperform the western provinces of China," Ma said.
Ningbo of Zhejiang Province and Shenzhen of Guangzhou Province are two top cities on China's eastern coast. "They have begun to make systematic disclosure of their environment information," Ma said.
Major polluted cities remained stagnant
Some areas with high levels of emissions per unit of GDP, including Shandong Province, Sichuan Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, have scored on the lower spectrum on the transparency index.
Hunan Province, with severe heavy metal pollution issues, has 14 cities that all ranked low among the 113 cities evaluated.
"We are fully aware of that we are lagging behind on publishing pollution information," said Liu Shuai on the environmental protection committee of the Hunan Provincial People's Congress.
"Apart from lack of governmental management, part of the problem is that many companies don't want any public supervision," Liu said. "Either they are afraid of their problems to be exposed to the pubic and cause trouble, or they just don't bother to release their data."