Ministry of environmental protection blasts local governments on pollution – China’s latest political and current affairs news


A summary of the top news in Chinese politics and current affairs for July 31, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

China Daily reports that the Ministry of Environmental Protection found in a month-long study that three provincial-level governments — of the megacity of Tianjin near Beijing, and of the eastern Anhui and Shanxi provinces — had overseen considerably worsened air and water pollution. The state media outlet noted that “the common thread in these cases was that leadership was weak and officials failed to give sufficient attention to pollution control.” Authorities gave each government a 30-day notice to submit public plans for improvement.

What went wrong?

  • Caixin records stunning details of what the inspection team called a “lack [of] a sense of responsibility” among Tianjin’s officials, who received the harshest criticism from the inspection team. In two separate districts, the city government had knowingly approved the development of parks on protected land, and “on multiple occasions” had “deployed tanker trucks to spray water” near air-monitoring stations to skew readings.
  • As the yearly discharge of untreated sewage rose to 61 million tons per year, only 15 percent of Tianjin’s monitored waterways remained drinkable, strikingly lower than even the national average of just 40 percent.
  • Also, Tianjin reportedly went “easy on curbing pollution from steel plants and motor vehicles, as well as the burning of coal in the city,” leading to a 25 percent increase in cancer-causing particulate matter in the air in just a year.
  • This experience was mirrored, on a smaller scale, in Shanxi Province, where 966 small coal-fired boilers continued to operate despite there being regulations to shut them in 2014, China Daily notes.
  • In Anhui Province, meanwhile, China Daily says that officials simply neglected their duties to monitor water drainage, and that area’s “wastewater contained excessive pollutants.”

Not all environmental news over the weekend was bad, however. Sixth Tone notes, “In the first case of its kind in the capital, [Beijing’s] public prosecutor is suing a steel factory for not complying with the national environmental standards.” Also, Xinhua mentions a new plan to “create 500 green manufacturing demonstration plants, 50 industrial zones and promote over 5,000 green products” in the Yangtze River Economic Belt in eastern China.