Environmental rights have been widely abused on the mainland by rampant pollution, widespread corruption and the flawed legal system, threatening to hamper the country's green goals in the next five years, senior officials said. Officials from the mainland's top environmental watchdog also warned economic growth and social stability were at stake, citing the soaring number of disputes over pollution in recent years and ever expanding public dissatisfaction with the government's inability to stop degradation. Xiao Genwang , deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration complaints office, said widespread pollution and other environmental problems had fuelled public anger. 'With the county's new rule on petitioners taking effect in 2005, complaints on other social issues have decreased while environmental complaints show no sign of abating,' Mr Xiao said yesterday at a briefing organised by the Sepa-backed All China Environment Federation. 'We dealt with around 580,000 cases of environmental complaints across the mainland in 2006 and the figure for 2007 remained quite high.' The rare revelation of official figures for petitions, usually seen as a politically sensitive topic, came after President Hu Jintao promised at the party congress in October to address environmental woes by seeking balanced development. But the reality was daunting, said Lu Xinyuan , a senior Sepa official. 'Despite widespread pollution, law enforcement offices dare not expose [many] environmental problems through media coverage due to complicated factors,' he said referring to pressure from fierce local protection and powerful interest groups. He declined to elaborate. 'The failure in protecting environmental rights will ultimately undermine social stability and economic development,' he warned. Sepa officials noted that despite growing public awareness, poor law enforcement and officials' broken promises on curbing pollution had made it difficult for people to defend their rights and protect the environment. Mr Lu said without support from the public and media, the leadership would not be alarmed and the green goals put forward at the party congress were unlikely to be realised. Apart from dealing with at least 20,000 cases of environmental rights abuses every year, Sepa has also been kept busy with pollution accidents, with one occurring every two days on average, according to Mr Lu. While nearly 20 per cent of the accidents were caused by illegal discharges by industrial polluters, the rest usually resulted from production safety incidents and traffic accidents. 'This year has seen an even worse start, with over a dozen accidents reported so far,' he added.