When China's national legislature approved Saturday the forming of a ministry of ecological environment, Wen Juan could not help applauding.[Special Coverage]
The new ministry will incorporate the old environment ministry with relevant functions segmented in other ministries, enabling the government to accelerate environmental protection and ecological conservation in a more comprehensive way.
It was part of a massive cabinet restructuring plan adopted at the ongoing session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), with the ministry's chief Li Ganjie appointed Monday.
"Forming the ministry shows the government's determination to intensify environmental protection," said Wen, an NPC deputy, adding that she was glad to see such a progress.
Wen is deputy head of the environment protection research institution of Tianjin Municipality. Years of investigation and appeal by Wen and her colleagues have triggered government actions against vessel emission pollution, a problem long ignored in China.
Wen and her colleagues found that the majority of ocean-going vessels to Tianjin Port and other Chinese ports used high-sulfur fuel, causing serious air pollution. They raised suggestions regarding vessel exhaust control, which were submitted to the NPC in March 2015 for national lawmakers to deliberate.
Five months later, the NPC Standing Committee passed an amendment to the Air Pollution Control Law, which, among others, stipulated that ships entering a control area for pollutant discharge must conform to emission requirements.
In December 2015, the Ministry of Transport issued an action plan to control vessel exhaust in waters of the Pearl River Delta, the Yangtze River Delta and the area encircling the Bohai Sea where Tianjin Port is located.
Wen said she was greatly encouraged by the quick response of the legislature and the government, and the determination to protect the environment.
Last year, the average density of PM2.5, a major index of air pollution, in Tianjin declined to 62 micrograms per cubic meter, according to official data.
Pollution control has been identified as one of the country's "critical battles" in the coming two years, along with financial risk prevention and poverty alleviation.
Chinese leaders have repeatedly stressed that the government must take action to build a "Beautiful China, where the skies are blue, the land is green and the waters are clear."
The forming of the ministry of ecological environment is considered the latest move to have such a goal fulfilled.
The new ministry will better carry out duties such as environment monitoring and law enforcement, Li Ganjie said on the sidelines of the NPC session Saturday.
Other measures taken included wide-ranging inspections and severe punishment in pollution cases.
According to Li, around 20,000 people including high-ranking officials have been held accountable for environment-related misconduct since four rounds of central authority inspections were launched over the past two years.
Apart from addressing air pollution, China has been strengthening efforts to fight water and soil pollution in recent years.
The country has enacted or modified six pieces of legislation concerning environmental protection, air pollution, water pollution, marine environment, environment tax and wildlife protection, Zhang Yesui, a spokesperson for the national legislature's session, said on March 4.
"The NPC Standing Committee will continue to review a draft law on soil pollution and revise a law on solid waste pollution," Zhang said. "China will build a stringent legal system to protect the environment."