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UPDATED: October 21, 2013
Governments to Be Given More Environmental Protection Responsibilities

Chinese Governments at all levels will be given more responsibility in improving the environment, a draft amendment to the environmental protection law, tabled for its third reading on Monday, has outlined.

The bill, which aims to curb China's deteriorating environment, was submitted to the bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), which runs from Monday to Friday.

Compared with the version that was tabled for the second reading in June, the latest amendment adds a clause which says that governments at all levels should increase financial input in improving the environment and preventing pollution, and use funds in a more efficient way.

It stipulates that the state should support the development of the environmental protection industry with policies and measures in finance, taxation, pricing and procurement.

The draft amendment also increases the role of environmental protection in evaluating a government's performance. Governments should view environmental protection work as a criterion when evaluating related departments and governments at lower levels, as well as officials in charge of subordinate authorities.

The results should be open to the public, says the draft amendment.

The amendment also addresses relations between economic development and environmental protection, adding a new clause which says related departments of the State Council, or the cabinet, and provincial-level governments should fully consider the environmental impact and listen to expert opinion when making policies.

The draft amendment increases punishments by handing down criminal sanctions to those responsible for trying to escape supervision when having to comply with laws. Those responsible for environmental pollution accidents by producing or using pesticides that are banned by the government will also face harsher punishment.

Institutions carrying out environmental evaluations for construction projects will bear joint liability if they are fraudulent in the service they offer, says the draft amendment.

Soil contamination is also addressed in the amendment, which says the state will establish a system to survey, monitor, evaluate and restore the soil environment.

The law has not been revised since it took effect in 1989. Over the past 24 years, the country has faced a deteriorating environment, with poor air, water and soil quality, as well as a more vulnerable ecosystem, which has affected people's health and everyday lives.

The Chinese Government and the ruling Communist Party have stressed the importance of environmental protection in recent years and have taken strict measures.

However, in a report to the NPC Standing Committee, the NPC's Law Committee said some major problems still exist. Some local governments overlooked environmental protection and concentrated on economic development.

The cost of breaking laws is too low, while public awareness of the environment needs to be strengthened, said the report.

The Law Committee said the draft amendment will be further improved after collecting opinions from senior legislators and related departments during the session.

(Xinhua News Agency October 21, 2013)

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