BEIJING, August 21 — China’s environmental chief has blamed fraudulent project approval procedures and slow construction of pollution control facilities for a rise in emissions in the first half of the year, reports Xinhua.
Acid-rain causing SO2 emissions increased 5.8% from January to June compared with the same period last year, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said, despite a government pledge to cut emissions 2% by the end of 2006. Pollution discharges increased in 17 provinces over the first six months said SEPA director Zhou Shengxian.
“Fraud in project approval was prominent, with many projects passing their environmental assessment without fulfilling the necessary criteria,” Zhou said.
In some counties only a third of projects had been checked for pollution control compliance before they received construction licenses. And nearly half of the firms, even those that passed environmental appraisals, failed to carry out emission-control measures as required, he said.
Almost half of the new coal processing projects this year failed to set up desulfurization equipment.
“It is clear the conflict between economic growth and environmental protection is coming to a head,” said Zhou.
A government probe of pollution-control approvals for construction projects valued at more than RMB100 million (US$12.5 million) found violations in almost 40% of the cases, Zhou said.
“Monitoring new projects for pollution control and preventing approval fraud will be the priority of environmental officials in the second half of this year,” he said.
China discharged 25.49 million tons (23.1 million tonnes) of SO2 in 2005, making it the world’s top polluter of the substance. Nearly 85% came from industrial sources, mostly large coal-burning projects.
Zhou said government officials must work harder to meet pollution-reduction goals.
“The responsibility for curtailing emissions rests on the shoulders of the local governments,” Zhou said.
The government will ensure that officials who ignore environmental protection will “pay the price,” he said.
Officials in 16 provincial governments and managers at six major power companies have signed responsibility pledges with the central government to reduce pollution discharges.
“For governments that fail to fulfill the pledge, approval will be suspended for new projects that might increase pollution emissions,” Zhou said.