Environment laws in China slated for overhaul to battle pollution

CHINA - The Environmental Protection Law and the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law will be revised this year to ensure that all pollutants can be closely monitored, Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, told lawmakers on Sunday during the annual session of the NPC.

Environmental protection will be enhanced by controlling pollution at the source, and polluters will be held accountable for the damage they cause and pay compensation, Zhang said.

Environmental problems are of great public concern, and protecting the environment is an urgent task that requires long-term efforts, Zhang said.

The NPC Standing Committee will carry out investigations on preventing and controlling soil pollution, and seek to solve prominent environmental problems and strengthen ecological conservation, he told the legislators.

Zhang's words came just days after Premier Li Keqiang "declared war" against pollution on Wednesday, pledging to fight it with the same determination with which the country battled poverty.

Yuan Jie, an official of the NPC Standing Committee's legislative affairs commission, said that the government's duties will be highlighted in the draft amendment of the Environmental Protection Law.

The government will be required to boost transparency in releasing information on environmental protection, Yuan said.

There are a large number of pollution prevention and environmental protection laws, and the key issue is enforcement, she said.

The Environmental Protection Law, enacted in December 1989, was the basis for many other environment-related laws, including the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law and the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law.

Among the 74 major Chinese cities subject to air quality monitoring, only three met the national standard for fine air in 2013, Wu Xiaoqing, vice-minister of environmental protection, said on Saturday.

Sun Xianzhong, an NPC deputy and professor at the Institute of Law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said officials are interested in the process of revising the Environmental Protection Law because it is closely related to people's livelihood.

Wan Jie, a member of the National Committee of Chinese People's Consultative Conference, urged environmental authorities to release information on pollution discharges at major plants across the country in a much more transparent way.

Environmental administrations should include the disclosures in their evaluation system, boosting supervision and ensuring implementation, Wan said.

Closer ties with public

During the work report, NPC Standing Committee Chairman Zhang Dejiang also called for lawmakers to form closer ties with the people and reflect their will.

The National People's Congress will improve the system to build a sound online platform, widen the channels of deputies' contacts with the people and make better use of deputies' special role in understanding public opinion, Zhang said.

"We will foster closer links between deputies and the people," Zhang told the legislators.

Last year, the NPC Standing Committee organised 1,740 deputies to conduct investigations and studies on special topics amid the committee's efforts to improve connections between deputies and the people, Zhang said.

To form closer ties with local-level deputies, the NPC Standing Committee also increased the number of NPC deputies observing its bi-monthly session last year from 40 to 66.

Cao Yin and Li Jiabao contributed to this story.

anbaijie@chinadaily.com.cn

Environment laws slated for overhaul to battle pollution in China