Governor 'cleans up' the coal industry
Shanxi leader boasts of reduction in deadly mine blasts and pollution
Shanxi governor Yu Youjun has declared a preliminary victory in his bold attempts to cut the number of deadly coal mine blasts and clean up the coal-rich province's pollution despite resistance from grass-roots officials and the failure to meet a key energy-saving target.
He said on the sidelines of the National People's Congress meeting that pilot schemes to charge pollution control fees and royalties on mining permits had helped the authorities finance the expensive campaign to repair Shanxi's tainted image.
'For the first time in the past two decades, we saw robust gross domestic growth of 11.8 per cent and the reduction in emissions of major pollutants in Shanxi last year,' he said.
While the country recorded an increase in sulfur dioxide emissions last year despite an earlier pledge to reduce them, Shanxi managed to cut emissions of the acid rain-causing pollutant by nearly 38,000 tonnes by shutting down thousands of small and illegal mines, he said.
But the province, the country's main energy base and biggest supplier of coal and coke, missed an energy efficiency target pledged by Mr Yu a year ago.
'Although our arduous campaign has seen a two to three per cent cut in energy consumption per unit of GDP, it still lags behind the 5.6 per cent target I set,' he admitted.
The central government has also failed to meet its target of consuming 4 per cent less energy per unit of GDP last year and the mainland only achieved a reduction of 1.23 per cent.
He said the province had introduced a set of 44 indices last year to assess local cadres' performance, including nine on energy reduction and pollution control.
But he admitted that due to technical difficulties in monitoring local authorities and upgrading equipment, no officials had yet been held responsible for missing the energy saving target.
'But this year will definitely see officials punished,' he said.
About 90 cadres above the township level had been disciplined last year, including some who were stripped of their posts because of their resistance to the closure of illegal coal mines, he said. Mr Yu said the province also planned to employ advanced technologies, such as aerial photography and electronic monitoring systems, in the fight against illegal mining, blamed for a host of fatal accidents.
He said the province also spent billions of yuan last year to plant trees and clean up polluted rivers.
'The war against pollution will inevitably have an impact on our economic development, but only partially and temporarily,' he said. 'In the long run, the price we have paid and are going to pay will be worthwhile because it is for the well-being of the people in Shanxi.'
He said the government had earned more than 18 billion yuan last year after imposing a royalty on mining permits.