Beijing names and shames polluters

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2006, 12:00am

Dirty half-dozen are tip of the iceberg, massive probe reveals

Mainland China's environmental and supervision watchdogs have joined hands to name and shame six local governments and polluting enterprises for economic protectionism and ignoring environmental protection policies.

At the same time, the green watchdog admitted battling pollution was an uphill fight, with investigations uncovering multiple repeat offenders. An environmentalist said allowing public participation in environmental protection efforts would make them more effective.

The name-and-shame campaign against polluters is part of a massive inspection programme launched in the wake of December's leak of benzene, a very hazardous chemical, into the Songhua River in the northeast.

The State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa) and the Ministry of Supervision yesterday highlighted six serious pollution cases involving five watercourses, an industrial zone and 25 enterprises in six provinces and autonomous regions, and reprimanded two local governments for failing to control pollution and actively blocking agencies' efforts to do so.

It is the second such blacklist to be issued in six months.

A statement on Sepa's website listed the offenders - companies from Jilin, Heilongjiang, Hebei and Xinjiang , and two local governments - and spelled out their wrongdoing.

In Henan's Xinan county, the government is accused of preventing local pollution control officials investigating and punishing more than 100 polluting companies in an industrial zone because it did not want to discourage investment, Sepa said. It said the authorities also turned a blind eye to companies which allegedly beat up environmental protection officials.

Sepa said the Jinhua municipal government in Zhejiang province went so far as to formulate regulations to stop officials from various departments checking on polluted companies in the city's development zone.

'[We] should eliminate all kinds of 'ad hoc policies and regulations' [by local governments],' the statement said, adding that the administration would investigate and punish the officials responsible for formulating the rules.

Yesterday's reprimand was based on findings from an investigation begun in February. The two agencies have sent investigators to check on 290,000 companies nationwide. At least 12,000 firms have been warned and punished, and of these 5,116 publicly criticised for violating environmental protection rules.

The inspection was prompted by December's benzene spill by Jilin Changbai Mountain Fine Chemicals and local officials' initial attempts to cover up the disaster.

The Sepa disclosure showed many polluting companies were repeat offenders. Assessments covering 226 national-level nature reserves found 82 were illegally engaged in tourism, mining and construction projects, said Wu Xiaoqing , Sepa's deputy director, according to Xinhua.

Wang Yongchen, a Beijing environmentalist and founder of Green Earth Volunteers, said Sepa's effectiveness was limited by the absence of public participation and supervision. 'It is a pity our government never listens to the public. We become victims when the rivers and air are contaminated,' she said.