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China's environmental watchdog orders local gov'ts, enterprises to release pollution figures
2007-04-25 00:19:50 Xinhua English

BEIJING, April 25 (Xinhua) -- China's environmental departments and polluters will have to publicize information regarding environmental degradation and pollution, according to a draft measure issued by the country's environment watchdog on Wednesday.

"Environmental departments at all levels are required to make public 17 categories of environmental information including laws, regulations, policies and standards regarding environmental protection," said the draft issued by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).

The measure, which does not become effective until May 1, 2008,comes shortly after the release of a decree on Tuesday by the State Council to boost official transparency by ordering government departments to be more open in reporting information.

Companies or factories exceeding pollution levels and whose facilities are not up to environmental standards will have to report this information, it says.

The draft measure asks governments to release environmental information within 20 working days and in a way that ensures the majority of the public have access to it. They must reply to any request for information from a member of public within 15 days.

"Polluting companies have to publish information concerning the discharge of main pollutants in local media within 30 days after local environmental departments draw up company blacklists," the regulation says.

The number of pollution-related lawsuits is rising by about 30 percent every year and the environment is one of the main factors triggering social conflicts.

Pan Yue, vice director of the SEPA, said China's current environmental regulations lack specific terms on "information transparency", which prevents the public from participating in environmental protection.

"The public's right to know, to participate and to supervise should be fully considered in environmental protection. Massive public participation is needed," Pan said.

"People should participate more than planting trees or cleaning rubbish. They should join the policy-making," he said, adding that this could only happen if relevant departments and enterprises published their environmental information.

Since February last year, SEPA called a halt to 43 projects with a total investment of 160 billion yuan (20.5 billion U.S. dollars) because the public was dissatisfied with the impact of the projects on the local environment.

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