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The second Central Inspection Team sends feedback to Shanxi

The second Central Inspection Team launched environmental inspection on Shanxi from Apr. 28 to May 28 to implement the major decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on the inspection. The team gave feedback to the provincial Party committee and provincial government at a meeting that was chaired by Governor Lou Yangsheng on Jul. 30. Chief Inspector Yang Song delivered the inspection report, and Secretary of the provincial Party committee Luo Huining made remarks in response. Deputy Chief Inspector Huang Runqiu, other inspectors concerned, the leaderships of the provincial Party committee and provincial government, as well as the heads of relevant departments attended the meeting.

The inspection team held that Shanxi has made positive progress in protecting the local environment since 2013. It has promulgated the amendments to the environmental protection regulations and regulations on the ecological restoration of Fenhe River Basin and the water resources protection of spring catchments, etc., spent nearly 10 bn. yuan per year in afforestation, and raised its forest coverage by 2.47 pct. in 2016 from the 2013 level.

Shanxi has eliminated 14.98 mil. t steel and 35.07 mil. t coke production capacity since 2013. It has invigorated the emission right trading market, with transactions totaling 1.483 bn. yuan, made 449 businesses the policyholders of corporate environment pollution liability insurance with total premium of 170 mil. yuan, and set up the nation’s first provincial judicial identification center for environmental pollution damages.

Taiyuan has improved heat supply infrastructure to replace coal-fired boilers and bulk coals and had over 300 heavy polluters in the city proper shut down or relocated. Datong enjoyed 314 clean or fairly clean days in 2016, as a result of environmental management of small boilers and polluters.

Shanxi attached great importance to the central environmental protection inspection, seriously investigated and punished the reported cases and made them public. By the end of June, all of the 3,582 environmental problems handed over by the team had been handled, as a result of which 2,485 enterprises were ordered to make rectifications, 856 ones were fined with a total penalty of 71.797 mil. yuan, 22 cases were filed with 61 persons held in custody, 1,589 persons were summoned for talks, and 1,071 individuals were held accountable.

The inspection team pointed it out that in spite of years’ efforts especially since the second half of last year, Shanxi provincial Party committee has highlighted the leading role of green development and promoted the green transformations. However, some of the acute environmental problems remained unresolved.

First, some of the leading officials in the province still prioritized economic growth over environmental protection. In 2015, the province went against the environmental review of a specific plan for power generation by coals of low calorific value and approved over 20 such projects, regardless of the overcapacity in the thermal power sector. Moreover, it cut the area of core and buffer zones of Sanggan River nature reserve by 648 ha. to make room for hydropower projects.

Some of the prefectural cities including Linfen, Yuncheng, Pinglu and Jincheng turned a deaf ear to the local people’s complaints and did not take actions to solve major environmental problems until being asked to.

Second, some of the local authorities either failed or were reluctant to do their duty to protect the environment. For instance, the coal authority had not established quality coal distribution centers for rural areas and the inferior bulk coals had posed severe pollution in winter from 2013 to 2016. The development and reform committee filed or approved industrial projects without proper review, and the land resources department granted mining right inside provincial nature reserves in one case and renewed it in 15 cases.

Taiyuan prioritized urban development over environmental protection and did not take effective measures to control flying dust on construction sites. The environmental infrastructure was developed at a rate much slower than the urbanization, and two garbage treatment facilities had to operate with overload. Lyuliang was summoned by MEP for talks for two years in a row, however, the city still did not pay adequate attention to its environmental problems.

Third, the air and water pollution posed a daunting challenge. In 2016, the mean annual readings of PM2.5 and PM10 went up 7.1 pct. and 11.2 pct. respectively. Fenhe River failed Grade V standard for years and Sanggan River saw deteriorating water quality.

Only one third of the coking and steel makers had been able to upgrade their technologies and meet tougher environmental standards by the end of 2015. The deadline was postponed time and again, and fugitive emission of soot and dust was massive.

Fenhe River as the mother river of the province was clearly not well protected from municipal wastewater due to poor infrastructure. A total of 200,000 t untreated municipal wastewater was discharged directly into Fenhe River on a daily basis from Taiyuan, Jinzhong, Lyuliang, and Linfen.

Sanggan River Basin was badly polluted. Datong Coal Mine Group left eight wastewater treatment projects unfinished by the end of 2016 and emptied about 75,000 t industrial wastewater into the tributaries of Sanggan River every day. The concentration of COD and ammonia nitrogen went up 155 pct. and 377 pct. in 2016 from 2014 levels at Dudingqiao Section where Sanggan River flows over the provincial border.

Fourth, the ecological damages posed a prominent problem. The local regulations on the protection of spring catchments were not effectively implemented, and development activities were still rampant, including, inter alia, nearly forty coal mines still in active production. The excessive coal production has dried up or cut off the flows of six springs and led to worrying ecological damages.

Unapproved development activities were also found in nature reserves. There has been 12 illegal new projects in Ganggan River nature reserve since 2013, which invaded 473 ha. experimental zone and 36 ha. core zone. The figures were 14 projects that occupied 82 ha. experimental zone and 493 ha. of the Lingqiu nature reserve.

Unapproved stone mining and other mining activities also destroyed the ecological environment and caused flying dust.

The inspection team required that Shanxi firmly develop the “four awareness” and shoulder the political responsibility for promoting ecological progress, by promoting the industrial transformations and upgrading, properly handling the relation between coal extraction and ecological conservation, making the resources and environment the mandatory restraints, and coloring the provincial growth with greenness. Moreover, it should work harder to ask the Party committees and governments to take equal responsibility for environmental protection and implement the “one position with dual responsibility” system, 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 report back 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 provincial 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.)

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