Beijing blames local administrations for opposition to industrial projects

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 4:08am

Environment minister Zhou Shengxian yesterday blamed poor management by local authorities for the rising tide of protests against big industrial projects over the past year.

Zhou said the central government would seek to improve transparency and expand public participation when making decisions about industrial projects and would require assessments on their risks to social stability.

"The phenomenon of 'not in my backyard' movements is coming to China … as the country is in a very sensitive period regarding environmental issues," Zhou said in Beijing.

His remarks came days after street protests forced the government in the Zhejiang seaport of Ningbo to suspend a petrochemical project.

In July, similar protests led Shifang city in Sichuan province to abandon a heavy-metals processing plant and Qidong city in Jiangsu to strip a waste-water pipeline from a paper making-facility.

Zhou blamed poor transparency and weak governance by some local administrations, adding that some unpopular projects were proceeding without central government approval.

He said his ministry in September started requesting that complete reports from environmental reviews be posted online. Previously, only summaries of such reports were made public.

The State Council has also ordered that all key industrial projects be assessed for their social stability risks, Zhou said, without elaborating.

The assessment should classify a project's risk as high, medium or low. Those categorised as high or medium risks would not be approved by the National Development and Reform Commission, according to a source from an oil company who spoke in the condition of anonymity.

Those projects deemed to be of low risk should also prepare measures to defuse any potential backlash. But the source questioned the feasibility of the new policy, as the rules set by NDRC for assessing such risks were still very vague.