U.S. Water News Online
SHANGHAI, China -- Environmental accidents must be reported
within an hour after they are discovered, China's pollution watchdog
ordered, citing the public's "right to know" following a spate of
After more than 25 years of breakneck growth, China is in the
midst of an environmental crisis that has continued to worsen as
local authorities fail to enforce regulations meant to counter severe
air and water pollution.
In a notice on its Web site, the State Environmental Protection
Agency outlined its determination to "strictly enforce" these
The renewed effort to improve compliance was prompted by several
major chemical spills in major rivers, the most severe one a toxic
spill in November into the Songhua River, a key source of drinking
water for tens of millions of people living in northeastern China and
Local authorities were criticized for reacting too slowly to the
chemical plant explosion and delaying disclosure to the public.
Serious accidents must be reported directly to the Environmental
Protection Agency, known as SEPA, or to the State Council, China's
cabinet, the notice said.
It said authorities must launch an immediate investigation after
receiving a report. Those who fail to report as required, or who
attempt to cover up or falsify information will be punished, it said
without providing details on potential penalties.
"With such a reporting system, SEPA will keep the public updated
with the latest and accurate information," the notice quoted an
unnamed spokesman for the agency as saying. "This disclosure system
will protect the public's right to know about the environment."
Since the Nov. 13 spill in the Songhua River, caused by a chemical
plant explosion, the agency said it had received 45 reports of
environmental accidents as of Feb. 1, six of them serious.
They included a cadmium leak from a smelting factory into the Bei
River in southern China's Guangdong province, a spill in the
neighboring province of Guangxi, a zinc leak from another smelter
along the Xiang River in Hunan province, diesel pollution in the
Yellow River from a power plant in central China's Henan province and
a petrol slick in the Gan River in Jiangxi, caused by a fire aboard a
Such disasters result from "an imbalance in industrial structure,"
the notice said.
More than half of China's major chemical companies have factories
along the country's two major river basins, the Yellow River and the
Yangtze River, according to a report in the English-language China
Many were built without environmental impact assessments, it said.
Meanwhile, the government reported that the eastern province of
Anhui has shut down 379 heavily paper mills, lime plants and starch
factories and fined or suspended production at another 2,362 in the
past five years.
The closures resulted from inspections of nearly 5,000 companies
in the province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
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