CHINA - Companies' violations of environmental laws and regulations have become shrewder over the past 10 years, a senior official with the Environmental Protection Ministry said on Saturday.
Illegal polluters are using such furtive ploys to avoid detection as rigging automated pollution-monitoring systems to fudge data, discharging pollution through secret underground pipes and dumping toxic waste into rivers in the dead of night.
The ministry released the results of the 2013 special campaign targeting illegal pollution that started in May and will last until November. This is the annual campaign's 10th year.
The special inspection team sent by the ministry found 91 illegal actions by 72 enterprises in 30 cities by Aug 31. The companies were caught misusing pollutant-treatment devices, exceeding discharge allowances and forging monitoring data.
Their names and violations have been announced to inspire greater media and public supervision. The media and public are encouraged to scrutinize these offenders to ensure they are rectifying their misdeeds, the ministry's spokesman Tao Detian said.
"As the public's awareness of their environmental rights has continued to grow over the past 10 years, companies are changing the ways they violate relevant environmental laws and are employing much more insidious methods," said Zou Shoumin, head of the ministry's environmental supervision bureau, who is in charge of the campaign.
Zou said the tricks that companies use to illegally discharge pollutants, such as rigging automated monitoring systems to fudge data, have also become more advanced.
He said the ministry is developing approaches to this situation. A likely measure will be to require all levels of government to install and operate companies' pollution-monitoring systems, rather than requesting the companies self-supervise.
Zou said local governments had already inspected all 72 violators before the ministry's team examined their environmental records. But the review discovered infractions missed by lower-level governments.
"This is not because local governments were ineffective," Zou said.
"A company is not in the clear just because they pass a single inspection. Supervision is increasingly difficult as many companies illegally discharge sewage in the rivers in the dead of night or during heavy rain."
The ministry will lead another six-month campaign from this month that will mostly focus on the Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province cluster. It will focus on air pollution to deal with the cold season when the use of heating sharply exacerbates smog.