China completed a high-level environmental inspection of 31 provincial regions on Friday, including the latest round, in which over 5,700 government officials were held accountable, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Monday.
The last inspection round – the fourth – began in mid-August and covered eight provincial-level regions – Jilin, Zhejiang, Shandong, Hainan, Sichuan and Qinghai provinces as well as the Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions. Inspectors finished their field work on Friday, the ministry said in a statement on Monday.
As of Friday, the inspectors had discovered 39,585 pollution problems and alerted the provincial governments. Of those problems, 35,039, or 88 percent, were dealt with. Taking heavy hits were polluting companies and irresponsible government officials, the ministry’s data show.
Over 32,000 companies were ordered to stop generating pollution and improve their equipment, 9,181 companies were fined a collective total of 466 million yuan ($71.2 million) and 364 people from the polluting businesses were detained, the ministry said.
In addition, 5,763 government officials were punished for poor performance in tackling pollution, it said, launching a large-scale “accountability storm” in the inspections.
The inspections fueled the need to resolve some severe pollution problems. For example, mining and herding activities were prohibited in the Lhalu wetland of the Tibet autonomous region soon after inspectors delivered their report to the region’s government.
The strict pollution inspections of companies also helped restore competition to the business market, said Tian Ge, manager of Jilin Shenhua Chemical Co, Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday.
His plant has been paying higher costs to reduce emissions during production, but has lost price competitiveness compared with businesses that did not have such equipment expenses and continued to pollute.
“We protected the environment, but lost in the market. It’s not fair,” he said, adding that many companies that generated pollution were shut down in the inspection, bringing back healthy competition – and profits to Tian’s plant.
With inspection work concluded, the inspectors will monitor the investigation of other pollution problems and make a summary about the inspection to the central government and affected provincial-level governments.
“The inspections have brought better results in reducing pollution and received more support from the public,” Liu Changgen, deputy director of the inspection bureau, said in a news release on Sept 1 about the environmental inspection.
High-level inspections, which take one month to complete, will be conducted in the 31 provincial regions every two years under a central government plan.
After the overall inspection, Liu said the central inspection teams will launch another by year’s end covering 10 cities and lasting 15 to 20 days. The cities will be selected from the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and neighboring provinces of Henan, Shandong and Shanxi, based on their air pollution control performance.
“It will encourage the governments to perform better in reducing smog during the winter,” he said.