While a nationwide blitz in China against polluting firms across the country is paying off, environmental inspectors are still finding it an uphill fight. They say local protectionism and less-than-stiff punishments for violating environmental laws and rules are major factors harbouring the country’s polluters. And violence against environmental inspectors has been noticeable in recent years. Each year, about indents in which inspectors are attacked occur, along with 4,000 occasions when inspectors encounter intentionally-made barriers.
The blitz, which started in April, is a joint move by six ministries, including the State Environmental Protection Administration, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Supervision. It is the second year for the six to carry out such an action.
In recent years, complaints by the general public about environmental problems have been increasing by 20 per cent annually and the number of telephone complaints was up 330,000 last year, said Wang Jirong, State Environmental Protection Administration vice-minister, when triggering the blitz in late April.
According to Chen Shanrong, with the environment supervision and inspection bureau of the administration, 470,000 companies had been checked by the end of September. About 23,000 cases involving environmental law violations have been filed, with more than 5,000 companies shut down, and 3,000 ordered to stop production. Meanwhile, 4,500 companies have been required to make improvements within a limited period.
Lu Xinyuan, head of the bureau, said similar actions against pollution companies can be traced back to 2001. In the most recent four years, about 10,000 companies were shut down or ordered to stop production and take pollution treatment measures. However, about 50 per cent of such companies just appear again, sometimes with even more serious pollution problems, he said. For example, such small companies as cement, paper-making and coal-burning power plants, which use outdated techniques, consume large quantities of energy while result in serious pollution, cannot be phased out entirely.