Expert urges transparency on environment

By Gong Yingchun
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 15, 2013
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The public should be involved in environmental monitoring and management if China is to avoid future pollution-related incidents, said environmentalist Ma Jun in an exclusive interview with

"Public participation is crucial in the prevention of environmental pollution," said Ma Jun, a director with the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE), a Beijing-based NGO that aims to expand access to environmental information in China. With that information, the IPE believes the public could urge pollution-prone corporations to reduce their carbon emissions.

According to Ma, the disclosure of such information, by both corporations and the government, would enable the public to then monitor pollution for themselves. Government departments, Ma said, should disclose information related to environmental quality and supervision. Companies should be required to report the type and quantity of pollutants they discharge.

Ma said that most government departments and enterprises have been reluctant to disclose environmental information, despite the fact that China's Regulation on Environmental Information Disclosure officially took effect May 1, 2008. In an attempt to draw attention to this fact, IPE has established a scoring system to evaluate individual government departments' disclosure. "The average score for those cities in 2009 was only 31, and it has increased to 42 as of last year. Despite such progress, it is still unsatisfying", said Ma.

And though government information may, as the scores reflect, be lacking, environmental information from Chinese corporations is never available. This lack of transparency is a "major defect" in the IPE's plans for pollution monitoring, said Ma. Chinese corporations are some of the world's worst environmental offenders, Ma said, due to lax management and the difficulty of environmental litigation. Even companies that are elsewhere environmentally responsible often become much less so when they do business in China. .

Ma suggested that China would do well establish a more transparent system. "A number of western countries have established the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register System (PRTR) (a system to collect and disseminate information on environmental releases and transfers of toxic chemicals from industrial and other facilities)", said Ma.

China, Ma said, could establish a similar policy to ensure public access to companies' environmental information.

Ma also noted the problem of local governments, which often shield pollution-prone corporations from punishment. Such corruption puts local environmental authorities in a difficult position. "Only by means of the information disclosure and public participation can the aforementioned unreasonable intervention be eliminated", he said.

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