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Polluter loopholes require legal solution
Qin Chuan, China Daily, 04 Jan 2005 06:44

Licensing of polluters is not paying off in China due to ineffective legal measures to guarantee all polluters are covered.

Peng Defu, with the Pollution Control Department of the State Environmental Protection Administration, told China Daily in an interview late last month that only 10 per cent of the nation's polluters are required under the law to be licensed.

And even among them, a large number actually discharge pollutants without holding licences, according to Peng.

Peng called on the country to revise its air and water pollution control laws so the licensing system can hold polluters more accountable.

Xia Guang, director of the Policy Research Centre with the administration, agrees. He said current laws related to the licensing of polluters are not comprehensive enough and weak in punishing violators.

China started to license water polluters on a trial basis in 1988 and extended the system into air pollution control in 2000, when the country amended the Implementing Rules on the Law on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution and the Law on the Prevention and Control of Atmospheric Pollution.

According to the two laws, licensing is only implemented in the country's key regions for pollution control, such as the "two controls" regions and "three rivers and three lakes" regions.

The "two controls" regions mean places where the amounts of sulphur dioxide discharged are large and the situation of acid rain is serious. And the "three rivers and three lakes" regions refer to those along and around the Huaihe, Haihe and Liaohe rivers and Taihu, Chaohu and Dianchi lakes, where water pollution is severe.

Peng said such key regions for pollution control involve less than 10 per cent of the polluting companies and organizations in the country.

Peng said as one of the major two steps in pollution control, environmental impact assessment, which is done before projects are constructed, is carried out relatively well by China.

But as another step, the licensing of polluters, which helps stop polluters already in operation, is not, he said.

A crucial problem is the shortcomings of current laws, he said.

For example, the laws stipulate that the maximum fine on licensed companies discharging more sewage than they are permitted is only 50,000 yuan (US$6,000).

"Such an amount is too small to have an impact on the companies," Xia said.

"Under current laws, the licensing system can hardly be implemented effectively," Peng said.

(China Daily 01/04/2005 page5)

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