ON MONDAY, the Ministry of Environmental Protection summoned the governors of Siping and Gongzhuling in Northeast China's Jilin province, Hengshui in North China's Hebei province, Zibo in Shandong province, Xingyang in Henan province and Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province, and the High-Tech District of Changzhi in North China's Shanxi province for explanations for the worsening condition of the local environment and their poor handling of air pollution. Southern Metropolis Daily comments:
Since the ministry started the governor-inquiry practice in 2014, the heads of at least 15 city and county governments have been called to the ministry to explain their poor performance in protecting the local environment and ecology.
The inquiry mechanism serves as a warning to local governments that they must do more to fulfill their responsibilities in environmental conservation.
But, as the past three years have shown, this has not been enough to curb environmental degradation and pollution.
If the inquiry system remains toothless and continues to lack legally binding powers to effect change, it is predictable that more local governors will make their way to the ministry to listen to suggestions on how to improve their work.
Few of the local governors heed the warnings or advice because the ministry almost has no say in their promotion or punishment, even if its administrative level is higher than that of the city and county authorities.
In other words, although the central authorities have given environmental protection equal importance to economic growth, it is way down the to-do list of the top local officials.
The central authorities need to reform the Environmental Protection Ministry's governor-inquiry mechanism. Being summoned to the ministry should be regarded as a stain on an officials' record and be taken into account when they are considered for promotion.
In the long run, the ministry must establish a performance evaluation system to assess the efforts of local officials to protect the environment and curb pollution.