Heavier fines can curb environmental violations
Environmental inspectors found that a majority of firms they inspected in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and surrounding areas were violating environmental laws and regulations, amid the country's "toughest" and largest national-level inspection on record.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection announced on its website Wednesday that a four-day inspection tour found that 679 of the 946 inspected firms, or 72 percent, did not abide by environmental laws and regulations.
Meanwhile, 28 cities neighboring the region have only made limited progress in curbing air pollution, said the inspectors, adding that some local officials have failed to achieve their pollution control targets.
For instance, only 16 companies in the Anding township in Beijing were closed or renovated even though the local government had pledged to take action on 111 firms that had been found to have no pollution control ability, the ministry said.
The cost of violation, which might include fines and detention, is lower than the cost of observing the regulations, which requires large investments to update facilities and might bring a sharp profit drop, said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a non-profit environmental protection organization based in Beijing.
Meanwhile, some local governments have taken no action against or even shielded polluting companies, as most of them are big taxpayers and revenue contributors, Wang Gengchen, a research fellow from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the Global Times.
Apart from the administrative intervention and independent inspections, China could also introduce international practices, such as litigation against polluting firms and inactive governments, as the public is increasingly involved in the campaign for a better environment, said Ma.
The inspectors also found excessive emissions in and around the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, as well as cases of firms faking monitoring data. The Zibo Green Energy Environmental Protection Co in East China's Shandong Province installed two monitoring systems, one providing data to the company and the other to local environment officials, with one showing readings 10 times higher than the other.