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China's NPC adopts revised Environmental Protection Law

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The Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, has voted to adopt revisions to the Environmental Protection Law. The revised Environmental Protection Law is the first change to the legislation in 25 years.

With 70 articles now, compared with just 47 in the original, the revised law sets environmental protection as the country's basic policy.

The bill was passed with a solid majority of votes.

"The new law says that economic and social development should be coordinated with environmental protection, and it encourages studies on the impact environmental quality has on public health, urging prevention and control of pollution-related diseases." NPC Standing Committee chairman Zhang Dejiang said.

For the first time, the law has established clear requirements for ecological protection. It says that the country should establish and improve its environmental and health monitoring, as well as survey and risk assessment mechanisms. The law also toughens the penalties for environmental offenses. And it has specific articles and provisions for tackling smog, raising public awareness, and protecting whistleblowers.

"According to the new bill, responsible persons will face up to 15 days in detention if their enterprises dodge environmental impact assessments and refuse to suspend production after being issued a ban." NPC Standing Committee member Xin Chunying said.

It also call on the public to adopt a more low-carbon and frugal lifestyle. The law encourages individuals to not just obey the law, but also to make their own efforts to protect the environment, such as sorting their garbage for recyclable materials. It proposes setting June 5th as National Environment Day.

The revised law will go into effect starting January 1st, 2015.

The new Environmental Protection Law places more responsibility on local governments and law enforcement departments, sets higher environmental protection criteria for enterprises and gives harsher punishments for wrongdoing. Lawmakers say that no single action can tackle China's pollution problems. Instead, it will be a long-term process, requiring a united effort from the whole society.


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