Bosses may be fined for water pollution

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2008, 12:00am

Draft suggests docking salaries of offenders

The heads of Chinese companies that pollute waterways could be docked half their annual salary in a draft legislation that marks the first time individuals could face punishment for damaging the environment.

The latest measure, carried in a draft amendment to the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law, is part of efforts by the authorities to tackle the serious pollution problems caused by the country's rapid economic development.

While analysts welcomed the proposed measure, they say its effectiveness also hinges on how the regulation will be implemented, such as whether it is actually the executives or the bosses - not the company - that ultimately pay the fine.

'Enterprise heads directly responsible for causing severe water pollution incidents and others with direct responsibility would be fined up to half of their income in the previous year,' Xinhua said, quoting the draft. This was in stark contrast with previous situations in which only firms, not individuals, would be fined for causing water pollution.

The draft was submitted to the National People's Congress Standing Committee for review yesterday, ahead of the upcoming NPC meeting that opens next week.

Water pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats on the mainland. State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa) statistics show that 59 per cent of the 161 emergency environmental pollution incidents it handled in 2006 was water pollution.

The latest measure is widely seen as a response to the repeated calls made by environmental officials and experts for hefty fines on illegal polluters as a way to curb environmental violations.

Hou Yibin , a member of the NPC Standing Committee, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that 'the fine should be made heftier, especially on those who repeatedly violate the environment rules'.

Jiang Wenlai , a water resources analyst at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said he believed fining the company heads would be a better deterrent than in the past especially for the larger companies.

'It's easy for big companies to pay the fines as they have rich resources to do this.

'But the situation would be different if the bosses are fined because they have to pay it out of their own pocket,' Dr Jiang said.

He said the unprecedented measure of fining company heads stemmed from the seriousness of water pollution in the country.

'Although the situation has improved in some parts of the country, overall the water pollution problem remains very serious,' the scholar said.