Chinese companies, officials punished for failure to control pollution

Chinese companies, officials punished for failure to control pollution
This picture shows vehicles running in smog covered streets in Beijing. China's cities are often hit by heavy pollution, blamed on coal-burning by power stations and industry, as well as vehicle use.
PHOTO: AFP

China has been strengthening its environmental oversight under a revised law, shutting down 9,300 companies and suspending work at another 15,000 in the first six months of the year.

A revised Environmental Protection Law with more "teeth" took effect on Jan 1, holding more officials and company managers account-able for violations, and stipulating that governments shoulder the major responsibility for protecting and improving the environment.

In the first half of the year, environmental watchdogs inspected more than 620,000 companies.

Nearly 300 companies and branches were hit with daily fines reaching a total of 236 million yuan (S$53 million) for continued violations during the period, and managers in 740 cases were prosecuted. In Wuhan, Hubei province, for example, the Gao Xin Thermal Plant was found to be excessively emitting air pollutants and the Wuhan environmental protection bureau handed out daily fines totaling 2.1 million yuan until the company installed the proper equipment.

However, Shaanxi Coal Chemical Energy Co in Xianyang, Shaanxi province, which faced a total of 15.8 million yuan in daily fines, has refused to pay, claiming that the bureau didn't act as required under the law.

In addition, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has summoned leaders of 10 cities to report on pollution since the beginning of the year.

After "talks" with the national environmental watchdog, the cities have taken stronger measures against the officials responsible, the ministry said on Wednesday.

So far, 57 officials, including heads of counties and environmental bureaus, have been suspended or given other administrative punishment after being found responsible for air and water pollution in Cangzhou, Baoding and Chengde in Hebei province, and in Zhumadian, Henan province.

The talks have had some positive impact on the environment, the ministry said.

In Linyi, Shandong province, the concentration of PM2.5-health-harming air-borne particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns or smaller was reduced by 27.8 per cent from March to June compared with the same period last year.

The ministry had told the mayor that 57 companies that had been required to reduce emissions by the end of last year were continuing to emit excessive pollutants in January. These polluting companies had their production suspended in March.

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