China says will report pollution information from Tianjin blast site

China says will report pollution information from Tianjin blast site
Fire and smoke rising after massive explosions hit the city of Tianjin on August 13, 2015.
PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - China's Environment Ministry has put in place a 24-hour monitoring system for pollutants from explosions this month at a port and will report accurate and timely data to the public, it said on Friday.

The blasts at a warehouse storing chemicals in the port city of Tianjin, not far from Beijing, killed at least 145, and stirred public anger about persistently poor work safety standards and possible health risks from the incident.

Speaking at a meeting, Environment Minister Chen Jining said environmental monitoring would not let up, with 24-hour checking for air, soil and water pollution.

The ministry would "release monitoring data to the public in a timely manner and accurately," the official China Environment News cited Chen as saying.

Chen added that the ministry would "accurately respond to focus points and hot topics for society, ensure people's right to know about environmental information".

China has a poor reputation for transparency, especially when it comes to embarrassing incidents like disasters which could reflect badly on the ability of the ruling Communist Party to ensure public safety.

A new environmental protection law, effective from Jan. 1, grants the public the right of access to environmental information and also stipulates that officials directly responsible for illegal behaviour will be fired.

China has formally detained a dozen people over the explosions and accused 11 officials and port executives of dereliction of duty or abuse of power.

The party has also sacked the head of the work safety regulator, a former vice mayor of Tianjin, for suspected corruption, but without making an explicit link to the Aug. 12 chemical blasts.

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