A draft amendment to the Water Pollution Prevention and
Control Law, which was deliberated by Chinese lawmakers on Sunday,
significantly raises fines for enterprises failing to fulfill
pollution control duties.
The draft was submitted for second review to the 31st session of
the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), or China's top legislature.
It lifted the restriction on the maximum amount of fines for
enterprises blamed for discharging pollutants surpassing the set
It said fines for such businesses would vary from twice to five
times the pollutant discharging fees they should pay according to
the severity of the violations.
Enterprises who failed to rectify the situation within a fixed
time would be closed, according to the NPC's Law Committee.
The previous draft amendment, which was submitted to the top
legislature for first review in August, stipulated the amount of
pollutants discharged into water by a factory should not exceed the
limit set by national or local regulations. Offenders would be
fined 100,000 yuan (US$13,500) to 1 million yuan.
The NPC's Law Committee, in an explanation of the draft, said:
"The amount of fines should be imposed according to the severity of
violations, and too little money cannot effectively tackle the
long-standing problem of 'low violation cost'."
Inexpensive fines against polluters have been open to debate in
China as many said they couldn't effectively curb environmental
Environmental officials said that compared with the economic
benefits of illegally discharged pollutants, the current level of
financial punishment was "a drop in the bucket" for most
The draft said victims of water pollution incidents were
entitled to get compensation from polluters. The compensation could
be more "expensive" for polluters than the fines, the Law Committee
said, noting that would further augment their "violation cost."
In such disputes, agents concerned could entrust environmental
monitoring institutions to provide relevant data. Such institutions
should accept such entrustment and provide authentic statistics,
according to the draft.
The amendment also encouraged legal institutions to provide
legal aid to victims in cases where compensation was sought.
The draft amendment also provides for the setting up of an
ecological compensation system for drinking water resources.
The draft says China will set up an ecological compensation
system for water environment by ways including giving transfer
payment to economically underdeveloped regions around drinking
water resources or in upper reaches of rivers, lakes and
"It is necessary to effectively solve the conflict between
drinking water protection and social economic development," the
NPC's Law Committee said in an explanation of the draft.
It is because that to strictly control human activities around
drinking water resources will inevitably impede the economic and
social development of those places.
Though the system has been supported by the State Council, it is
better to define through lawmaking its scope, subjects and methods
in a bid to adjust the interests between ecological protection and
economic construction, the Law Committee explained.
The SEPA had been studying the compensation system since the
1990s. So far, it has piloted ecology compensation fee collection
programs in 24 state-level natural reserves in 685 counties of 11
In September this year, the SEPA issued a document, announcing
that the country will launch a pilot program for a national
ecological compensation system for natural reserves, mineral
resources, and rivers.
Government held accountable
Efforts to protect water environment will be taken as an
assessment of government performance, according to the draft.
It said local governments should set target for water
environment protection and undergo certain evaluation. Failure or
success in achieving environmental targets will be an important
assessment of local government performance.
Water pollution is one of the biggest environmental concerns for
both the government and public.
A 2006 survey revealed China's surface water generally suffered
from medium pollution. One third of the 744 samples tested were
graded "V", the worst pollution rating.
According to SEPA statistics, the administration handled 161
emergency environmental pollution incidents in 2006, 59 percent of
which involved water pollution.
(Xinhua News Agency December 24, 2007)