China's new environmental protection law has added claws to the usually weak enforcement efforts, helping reap roughly 12.3 million yuan (1.99 million U.S. dollars) in fines from big polluters in the first two months thanks to a newly designed provision.
The provision allows environmental protection agencies to impose fines on a daily basis as long as problems remain. The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) said on Friday it used the new provision in 26 cases at the start of the year.
In the past, heavy polluters would rather pay a one-time penalty than fix pollution problems or buy pollution discharge equipment because the penalty was too cheap.
A local oil refinery in northeast China's Jilin Province was fined one million yuan in 2005, the utmost limit at that time, when it was found guilty of contaminating a major river, though the incident caused heavy economic losses and even threatened the lives of thousands of local residents.
Zou Shoumin, director of the MEP bureau of environment supervision, said the new law has shown its formidable force thanks to joint enforcement by environmental protection agencies and the police.
The ministry also handled hundreds of other cases that saw polluters' production halted, suspects detained or their property seized, said Zou, adding such cases are on the rise as seen in the two months.