BEIJING, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- An official's track record in pollution control is to become a major factor in determining the overall achievements of an individual, according to new government guidelines.
Zhou Shengxian, head of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said on Monday that the decision was taken after SEPA found the total volume of major pollutants, such as sulphur dioxide, discharged during the first six months of this year was still up on the same period last year.
These results are especially damaging given local governments and factories have signed responsibility pledges to reduce pollutant discharge with the central government.
"Excessive fixed-asset investment and lax environmental protection supervision should be blamed for the rise of pollutant discharge," Zhou said.
He said officials who cheat or hide the facts on pollution management will be "seriously dealt with" and officials who prove incompetent at reducing pollutant discharge will also be "severely punished".
Zhou reiterated that China has set the target of reducing the total volume of pollutant discharge by two percent compared to last year. China will no longer pursue economic growth by sacrificing the environment, he added.
Local governments that signed responsibility pledges with the central government on reducing pollutant discharge must fulfill their pledge, otherwise the government is no longer entitled to approve new industrial projects, said Zhou.
A factory that fails to fulfill its pledge will be temporarily shut down until its pollutant processing capability has improved, he said.
SEPA will dispatch special groups to examine the work of local governments and factories to reduce pollutant discharge.
Earlier this month, SEPA disclosed that it will set up 11 branch offices to monitor and investigate environmental issues, bypassing regional bureaus.
The offices are directly led by SEPA, as regional environment departments, which are affiliated to local governments, also proved inefficient and reticent about exposing pollution scandals that involved local officials.
The offices will help strengthen the monitoring of potential environmental hazards and reduce factories' pollutant discharge, said a leading SEPA official. Enditem