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Lawmakers argue environmental law too vague

2014-04-23 09:06 chinadaily.com.cn Web Editor: Li Yan

More detailed rules should be added to the draft amendment to the Environmental Protection Law to make it more enforceable, said members of China's top legislature on Tuesday.

The draft's fourth amendment is scheduled to be voted on by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Thursday when the bi-monthly session ends.

During deliberation on Tuesday morning, some lawmakers agreed that the draft has made progress since it stipulates the government's obligation of information disclosure and has allowed more social organizations to file public interest lawsuits. However, it was accused of lacking details.

Wang Mingwen, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, said that the draft has ambiguous rules on qualifications social organizations have to meet to file public interest lawsuits.

According to the draft, organizations have to have registered with prefecture-level governments in the past five years, have worked to protect the environment for at least five years and have a good reputation.

"It's difficult to evaluate whether a social organization has a good reputation or not, so this clause should be deleted," Wang said.

Besides, the draft requires the government to publicize environmental information on time; however, it does not specify how often the information should be released, she said.

Lyu Wei, a member of the legislative committee of the legislature, said more compulsory rules are needed on the government's disclosure of environmental information.

"If the government failed to release environmental information, what punishment will the officials receive? There is no such rule in the draft."

Chen Changzhi, vice-chairman of the top legislature, said that the draft should make clearer stipulation about which level of government agencies should be accountable for the detailed duties including law enforcement and pollution surveillance.

"In some parts of the draft, it says the country should do this or that, but what does 'the country' mean?" he said, adding that "the country" should be replaced by more concrete government agencies such as the State Council, China's Cabinet.

Wang Wanbin, deputy secretary-general of the NPC Standing Committee, said that the draft's being accused of being ambiguous is inevitable since it's a basic law of national environmental protection.

China has more than 30 laws and 90 regulations related to environmental issues and it's impossible to cover all of the problems in a law, he said.

More detailed rules should be made in the amendments of special laws, such as the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law, he added.

The Environmental Protection Law, enacted in 1989, has never been revised in the past.

This is the fourth time the draft amendment has been submitted for deliberation since its first reading in August 2012. It is rare for a law or an amendment to go through three readings and not be passed.

The number of protests over environmental issues has been rising in the past years. In a recent case, more than 1,000 people took to the streets in Maoming, Guangdong province, to protest against a paraxylene project late last month.

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