The sixth Central Inspection Team launched environmental inspection on Hunan from Apr. 24 to May 24 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 Xu Dazhe on Jul. 31. Chief Inspector Wu Xinxiong delivered the inspection report, and Secretary of the provincial Party committee Du Jiahao made remarks in response. Deputy Chief Inspector Liu Hua, 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 Hunan has acted in line with the important instructions of General Secretary Xi Jinping on “promoting green, circular, and low-carbon development” and “protecting the Yangtze River economic belt from major development initiatives”, and listed environmental governance, poverty alleviation, and transformation and upgrading as “three major tasks”. It has given top priority to the environmental management of Xiangjiang River and accelerated the reform on ecological civilization institutions.
Hunan has moved forward with the treatment of pollution in key sectors. It has outlined an overall blueprint to treat four major rivers and one lake and launched thematic actions to dredge ditches and ponds, control pollution by livestock and poultry breeding, remove the aquaculture cages in rivers and lakes, clear the riverside and lakeshore garbage, and treat major industrial pollution sources. The province has carried out 2,269 air pollution control projects since the year 2013, initiated the detailed survey on soil pollution and 21 pilot projects on soil remediation, and raised nearly 10 bn. yuan to fund the over 2,000 projects on the heavy metal pollution control in Xiangjiang River Basin.
Moreover, Hunan has promoted afforestation and the restoration of the environment in mines. The number of nature reserves had gone up from 134 to 163, the wetland protection rate up from 50.1 percent to 74.1 percent, and the forest coverage up from 57.34 percent to 59.64 percent in 2016 from the 2012 levels. It has also conduct effective county-wide integrated rural environment management.
Hunan 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 4,583 environmental problems handed over by the team had been handled, as a result of which 4,024 enterprises were ordered to make rectifications, 1,203 ones were fined with a total penalty of 63.511 mil. yuan, 133 cases were filed with 174 persons held in custody, 1,382 persons were summoned for talks, and 1,359 individuals were held accountable.
The inspection team noted that Hunan has been effective in protecting local environment since 2013, however, the economic growth and environmental protection remained a major conflict and the environmental problems constituted daunting challenges.
First, some areas and departments didn’t promote environmental protection effectively. Some of the leading officials put immediate interests before long-term interests, and did not pay as much attention to environmental management as the development of industries and urbanization. Formerly known as a land of non-ferrous metals and a land of honey and milk, the province is now suffering from environmental problems caused by overexploitation and insufficient protection of their precious natural resources.
Beset with heavy metal pollution, Hunan still outlined more production capacity in the 13th Five-Year Plan for non-ferrous metal sector rather than tightening the control over the pollution from this sector. The local governments even introduced local policies to bypass the environmental regulation instead of removing them. The local authorities were daunted by large-scale enterprises and overlooked their pollution problems. For example, most of the non-ferrous metal miners and smelters are the branches of an industrial giant China Minmetals Corporation, and have never been punished even reported with dozens of violations since 2013.
Jinlong Mineral Company of Hengyang Municipality has been complained for causing pollution for as long as 17 years, and yet, the local government still took it lightly and did not take actions to address the leakage of the strongly complained tailings reservoir.
Second, the local governments and departments often neglected their environmental duties or misused their powers. The provincial water resources department did not list the buffer and experimental zones of nature reserves as zero sand mining zones in its plan (2012-2016) for the sand mining in the mainstreams of the Xiangjiang River, Ziyang River, Yuanshui River, Lishui River, and Dongting Lake.
The provincial land resources department has approved 46 entities with the mineral exploration rights inside nature reserves and issued 29 certificates for mining inside nature reserves, since 2013.
Xiangtan Municipality, what with the plethora of environmental problems, its Party committee and government rarely attended to the environmental concerns. Xiangtan Alkaline Company as a flagship company discharged excessive pollutants for a long period of time due to on-and-off operation of monitoring equipment. However, the prefectural and county level governments provided false documents to prove otherwise. Changsha and Chenzhou also had their problems.
Third, the ecological and environmental problems were daunting in the Dongting Lake area. None of the sections monitored in 2016 met Grade Ⅲ standard, down from 36.4 pct. in 2013. The concentration of TP went up 97.9 percent at the section of the outlet, which was very worrisome.
The sand mining operations have eaten away the wetlands, islets and shoals of Eastern Dongting Lake National Nature Reserve, by around 4,000 mu from Yanzi Islet, an important habitat of wintering wild geese. Houhu Lake and Caisang Lake were also suffering ecological damages due to wrong uses of certain waters. Datong Lake in Yiyang Municipality, the largest inner lake of Dongting Lake area, was declared by the central government as a lake in healthy ecological conditions. However, Tianhong Fishery Company had plenty of feedstuff and fertilizers thrown in the lake and the city overlooked it. As a result, the water quality did not meet Grade V standard in 2016.
Fourth, some of the prominent environmental risks were left unsolved. Hunan has been heavily financed by the central government, as a key region for controlling heavy metal contamination. However, some of the treatment projects were not effective and efficient as expected. The plenty of unlicensed small polluters posed unneglectable environmental risks and pollution from heavy metals, with outdated processes and rough equipment.
The nature reserves were ill managed as well. There were 29 unapproved mining projects and 67 hydropower projects going on in Zhangjiajie Giant Salamander National Nature Reserve by the time the inspectors visited. As a result, the natural larva sites of Giant Salamander were much less than the early days of the nature reserve. There were more than 6,800 aquaculture cages in Huanggai Lake Nature Reserve, covering a total area of 9,000 mu.
The inspectors required that Hunan Province firmly foster the “four awareness”, live up to the political responsibility for promoting ecological progress, address the neglect of duty or misuse of powers by local governments, make greater efforts in tackling the heavy metal contamination, pay attention to the public complaints about environmental problems, and facilitate the integrated ecological environment management of the Dongting Lake. 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.)