The seventh inspection team of the Central Government launched environmental inspection on Gansu from Nov. 30 to Dec. 30, in an effort to implement the major decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. The team gave feedback to the provincial Party committee and provincial government at a meeting that was chaired by the Acting Governor Tang Renjian on Apr. 13. The Leader of the inspection team Ma Zhongping delivered the inspection results, and Secretary of the provincial Party committee Lin Duo made remarks in response. Deputy Leader Huang Runqiu, other inspectors concerned, the leadership of the provincial Party committee and provincial government, as well as heads of relevant departments attended the meeting.
The inspection team held that since the year 2013, the Gansu provincial Party committee and provincial government have learnt and practiced the guidelines of the important statements of General Secretary Xi Jinping and the strategic requirements he proposed during his inspection tour to Gansu. Also, they have enthusiastically boosted the development of the experimental National Ecological Security Shelter Zone, and made new headways with the eco-environmental conservation.
The province has attached great importance to the development of environmental protection mechanisms, and introduced an implementation plan to promote ecological progress, the measures for accountability of Party and government leading officials for eco-environmental damages, and the provincial regulations on eco-environmental protection responsibilities. Twenty-one leading officials were summoned for talks over environmental violations including by Wuwei Ronghua Company and Longxing Antimony leakage accident.
Also, the province has taken strong measures to mitigate pollution, reduce coal consumption, and control flying dust and vehicle population in order to effectively curb the air pollution in Lanzhou and other key cities. It has exercised grid-based management, and broken down the air pollution control tasks and allocated them to specific organizations and individuals. As a result, the mean annual PM10 and PM2.5 readings of Lanzhou went down over 25 percent in 2016 from the 2013 levels. The city set a good example in air quality improvement, by gaining notable environmental benefits with lower inputs.
Moreover, Gansu has strengthened the eco-environmental conservation of Qilian Mountains and canvassed and straightened out illegal mining and construction projects. By the end of 2016, most of the mining and extraction projects inside the protected area had been shut down or frozen. The province has actively carried out the ecological conservation projects for combating desertification, and had closed an area of 2.37 mil. mu hillsides or deserted lands to facilitate afforestation, and fenced up 193.7 km by the year 2010, cutting down the desertification and sandy area by 387,000 mu and 141,000 mu respectively. It has accelerated the treatment of Shiyang River and other key watersheds, replenished the Qingtu Lake in Minqin County to form a water surface covering 25.2 km2 and an inland wetland spreading 106 km2, and restored the water table of groundwater in some areas. Moreover, it has implemented the ecological functional zoning plan for replenishment of major contributing sources of the Gannan section of Yellow River, as a result of which, the forest coverage of Gannan Prefecture saw a net growth by 1.34 mil. mu, the mean coverage of the pasture surged 12.8 percent, and the overall vegetation coverage reached 96.3 percent, contributing to a steady flow of around 6.5 bn. m3 to the Yellow River every year.
During the monthlong central government inspection, Gansu cooperated closely with the inspection team. By the end of February, all of the 1,984 environmental problems handed over by the team had been handled, having 1,255 enterprises make rectifications, imposing fines on 661 enterprises, holding 32 persons in custody, having 744 persons summoned for talks, and holding 836 individuals accountable.
The inspection team pointed it out that positive progress has been made by Gansu in preserving the ecological environment, and yet, the degradation trend has not been curbed and the environmental situation remains challenging. The main problems are listed as below.
First, Gansu has highly valued economic growth and made light of environmental protection. This problem can be found at different levels, in varied areas, and on different scales. For example, the 2013 amended measures for the approval and management of mineral resources in Gansu allow mineral extraction activities in the experimental area of nature reserves, which runs foul of the superior laws-the mineral resources law and the nature reserves regulations, leading to rampant illegal mining inside certain nature reserves.
Also, the province did not achieve the air quality improvement goals for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015. In this context, the provincial government mapped out the guidance for the implementation of the central government’s action plan for air pollution control in 2013, however, the implementation of the guidance was inadequate.
Also, the province’s 2016 annual work plan for water pollution control was not distributed to local areas and departments until last November, and the target responsibility documents were not signed with its cities until the inspection team came, which rendered the annual goals unattainable by the end of last year.
Moreover, some departments have either conducted nonfeasance or behaved irresponsibly. For example, the Jialong New Materials Company in Baiyin Municipality did not dismantle its extraction production line supposed to be eliminated in 2014 according to a plan of the provincial government. The quality supervision departments failed to strictly control the registration of new coal-fired boilers and the quality control of coals.
Second, there were grave ecological damages in Qilian Mountains National Nature Reserve and other nature reserves. With 144 permits for extracting and tapping mineral resources already approved inside the national nature reserve, the province’s land resources authority still broke the laws and regulations and approved or renewed nine permits for tapping minerals and five permits for extracting them, even after the central government adopted a plan to re-demarcate the reserve back in 2014. Massive random mining and extraction activities have led to destruction of surface vegetation, aggravated soil and water loss, and land cave-ins.
The hydropower development activities were intensive in several watersheds of the Qilian Mountains, with 42 out of the 150 plus hydropower stations built inside the nature reserves, leading to fragmentation of the water ecological environment.
Six more national nature reserves across the province have been disturbed by the unapproved mining and hydropower development activities since the year 2013.
Third, part of the province encountered evident environmental risks and pollution. For example, Baiyin was exposed to prominent environmental risks with heavy metals-related industrial clusters. In 2015, the central government allocated 130 mil. yuan to treat the heavy metal pollution and chromium-contaminated soils in Dongdagou, however, no project has been commenced since.
The development of wastewater pipelines was behind schedule in the urban areas across the province. Untreated municipal wastewater was discharged into and badly polluted some rivers. For example, over 40,000 t municipal wastewater was discharged directly into Shandan River basin on a daily basis, and the water quality of the river has been worse than Grade V standard ever since 2013.
The inspection team demanded that Gansu thoroughly learn and implement the guidelines of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important statements and instructions, always put the ecological development and environmental protection at a vital position, and properly handle the relation between economic growth and environmental protection. It should accelerate the development of the experimental National Ecological Security Shelter Zone, do well in returning farmlands to forests, returning the pasture to grasslands, retaining water and soil, combating desertification, and restoring the ecological environment, and build a solid ecological security shelter. It should attach great importance to preserving the ecological environment, eliminate the mining and extraction projects, and move forward with the ecological conservation and restoration of the Qilian Mountains. Also, it should accelerate the control of air, water, and soil pollution and ensure the continuous improvement of the environmental quality; intensify the control of heavy metal pollution, and make greater efforts to canvass the potential hazards. It should pursue liability in accordance with laws and regulations, order relevant departments to further probe the identified problems, clarify the liabilities and conduct accountability seriously.
The inspection team emphasized that the provincial Party committee and provincial government should work out a rectification plan soon based on the Environmental Protection Inspection Program (on trial) and the above feedback, and submit the plan to the State Council within 30 working days. The rectification plan and the results will be made public.
The team also straightened out the cases on the accountability for local ecological damages, and handed them over to the provincial Party committee and government for further processing.
(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)