Better enforcement of pollution goals needed

The mainland has set ambitious goals to cut pollution levels, but has been noticeably quiet on reporting the success of its efforts. This is because just four provinces and municipalities - Beijing, Gansu , Jiangsu and Tianjin - have met the targets.

That the goals have not been met is hardly surprising, given that industries responsible for producing most of the environmental pollution continue to experience strong growth. Central government efforts to rein in investment in these areas is being either ignored or poorly policed.

As a result, despite the central government promising to give twice-a-year updates on progress, the chief authorities for releasing such information - the State Environmental Protection Administration and National Statistics Bureau - have not been regularly forthcoming with the data. Our report today is based on an article in a bi-weekly national newspaper.

There is no doubt that the mainland's leaders are eager to curb pollution levels. With China the world's second most polluting nation after the US, and tipped to take that mantle as early as next year, the central government knows it is in the nation's interests amid concern about global warming to cut emissions of pollutants like sulfur and carbon dioxide.

Vast inroads are being made in developing alternative energy sources to fossil fuels. The biofuel, hydroelectric, nuclear, solar and wind industries are booming. That four regions met their targets, some decidedly so, is impressive.

The rise of pollutant levels nationwide last year despite a targeted cut of 2 per cent is worrying, however, given the campaign. And while steps are now being taken to discourage big polluters, Beijing is not naming and shaming those who do not attain its expectations.

For the health of the nation, pollution levels must be cut. If this is to happen, those made responsible for meeting goals have to be held accountable.