Polluters to face tougher enforcement
The nation's reshuffled top environmental authority is giving greater importance to environmental inspections and law enforcement as its annual budget rose by more than 70 percent over that of its predecessor.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment, which was launched on March 16, said its budget for this year is almost 12.2 billion yuan ($1.9 billion), while that of its predecessor, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, was only about 6.9 billion yuan.
In addition to the duties of the earlier ministry, the new body also assumed some responsibilities that previously belonged to six government departments.
The budget for pollution control has risen by more than 100 percent to 500 million yuan, and more than 70 percent of the budget will be used for the country's second national census of pollution sources. The last one was done 10 years ago.
About 9 million pollution sources around the country are expected to be surveyed in the national census, which will help policymakers monitor and improve the environment, according to Hong Yaxiong, director of the office in charge of the national census.
The budget for environmental law enforcement and inspection rose by 164 percent to 300 million yuan. A major part of the budget will be spent on air pollution control in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, inspections of drinking water sources and the handling of emerging environmental incidents and major environmental violations.
The bigger budget comes with increasing responsibilities. Many of these, such as tackling climate change issues, emission reductions and marine and agricultural pollution, make it necessary to enhance its capabilities in law enforcement and inspection, said Ma Yong, deputy secretary-general of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation.
"Law enforcement and inspections in all these sectors are costly," Ma said.
The new body began to release public information on enterprises' environmental violations after it was launched. On Friday, it announced four environmental violations it found in a nationwide inspection. Announcing that many violations at once was unusual.
Ma said it is expected that environmental inspections will be enhanced with the creation of the new ministry. It will continue to pay close attention to the areas that were handled by the former ministry while it quickly ramps up efforts in the new areas, Ma added.