China’s environment minister has warned the country needs more powers to crack down on polluting companies and local governments that protect them.
Beijing has identified pollution as a top priority as it tries to reverse the damage done by decades of unrestrained growth.
A revised environmental protection law came into effect at the start of last year with the aim of strengthening inspectors’ powers and increasing the range of punishments for lawbreakers.
China has also set up hundreds of independent environmental monitoring stations nationwide.
However, environment minister Dr Chen Jining has told reporters that the new law still needs more teeth, with too many companies still behaving illegally and local governments still hampering enforcement efforts.
“Companies are under pressure and local governments are under pressure, but there is still a long way to go before every enterprise obeys the law,” he said.
Mr Chen said as many as 191,000 firms were found to be violating environmental regulations last year, 20,000 of which were shut down and 34,000 forced to suspend operations until they complied.
Offending businesses were forced to pay US$87.32 million in fines over the year.