Thu, Apr 04, 2013 - Page 9 News List

China’s losing battle against state-backed polluters

Many state-owned mining firms, some of China’s worst polluters, were carved out of government mining bureaus and still enjoy a cozy relationship with local governments, making it difficult for the central government to improve environmental standards

By David Stanway  /  Reuters, SHANGHANG COUNTY, China

Calls to the local government in Zhenfeng went unanswered.

UNDER SUNLIGHT

Experts — and central government — agree that if China wants to enforce its environmental rules, it first needs to establish a monitoring system that will at least put big firms under pressure to mend their ways.

“We must improve our legal system and raise environmental standards, and prevent pollution and environmental damage,” Chinese Deputy Minister of the Environment Wu Xiaoqing (吳曉青) told reporters in the middle of last month. “Only through measures such as laws, standards, policies and so on can we solve the problem [caused by] the low cost of breaking the law and the high cost of complying with it.”

Like other big state-owned industrial enterprises, Zijin Mining is not yet under any pressure to disclose its emissions, and there is no real-time monitoring system that will allow Beijing to enforce national standards.

“We have created more than 20 laws on the environment, but still there is not a single one that requires a corporation to tell people what type of pollutants, toxins and metals they discharge, and what the volume is,” Ma said.

“The best way to change this situation is to put it under sunlight,” he said. “It would be difficult for local governments [to protect big firms] if it was all made public.”

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