A Beijing-based environmental protection NGO said Tuesday it has initiated the first public interest litigation against eight companies for allegedly polluting the Tengger Desert in China's northwest.
Wang Wenyong, an official of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF), told the Global Times that his organization filed a lawsuit before a local court in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region on Thursday.
The court will decide whether to accept the case this week.
The NGO is demanding that the firms "remove environmental pollution hazards, restore the desert's ecological system or set up special funds or entrust a third party to restore the desert." They were also asked to issue an open apology on national press.
Part of China's fourth largest desert began to suffer from serious pollution in 2007 as factories started discharging significant amounts of toxic liquids without any treatment.
In September 2014, the owners of one of the factories were fined 5 million yuan ($782,000) and ordered them to shut the factory down, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Another company was fined and its owner sentenced to one-and-a-half years in jail for environmental pollution.
Ma Yong, a researcher from the Supreme People's Court, said the lawsuit should serve as deterrence to polluters, who should face a higher cost for breaking laws, Xinhua reported.
"Polluters should not only be fined and punished, they should also be legally required to thoroughly restore the environment, which will increase their pollution costs," Ma said.