September 28, 2018 / 4:34 AM / 22 days ago

China says there are still 'weak links' in environmental compliance

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China still has to address a series of “weak links” in enforcing pollution rules, the environment ministry said on Friday after publishing its latest investigations into the compliance records of seven provinces and regions.

Smog billows from chimneys and cooling towers of a steel plant during hazy weather in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China, December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

China has been sending inspection teams across the country to find out whether local authorities have tackled environmental failings uncovered during previous probes.

Of the 531 violations identified in the provinces of Shanxi, Liaoning, Anhui, Fujian, Hunan and Guizhou, as well as the municipality of Tianjin, 313 had already been fixed by mid-September, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said on its website (www.mee.gov.cn).

But some regions were “chasing success” when it comes to fixing environmental problems and were not doing enough to rectify violations, it said.

People walk with their faces covered on a polluted day in Shenyang, Liaoning province, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

China has been taking action against officials for failing to implement state policies as part of the government’s four-year war on pollution.

The environment ministry has previously said that it had uncovered dozens of acts of fraud, including equipment tampering, by local governments and enterprises, and complained in June that some authorities continued to prefer form over substance when it came to rectifying environmental problems.

In recent inspection campaigns, China has been focusing on the cleaning up of “black and stinking” urban water supplies and the removal of illegal construction on protected nature reserves. It has sought to enforce new emissions standards in sectors like steel and thermal power.

In documents published by the ministry on Friday, local governments said they were now planning to spend heavily to try to comply with state environmental policies.

Southwestern China’s Guizhou, one of the country’s poorest regions, said it had accumulated a total “multi-channel” fund of 53 billion yuan ($7.7 billion) to spend on improving drinking water supplies, building urban environmental infrastructure and treating pollution caused by livestock farming and heavy metal mining.

China’s biggest coal producing region of Shanxi has also set up a environmental fund of 3.29 billion yuan dedicated to improving air, water and soil quality, it said.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Joseph Radford

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