The Chinese government has begun a “war on pollution” in order to improve the quality of life of its citizens. Under new measures, polluters could be suspended, shutdown and face unlimited fines.
Chinese premier Li Keqiang claimed to make environmental protection a priority after a citizen in Shijiazhuang sued the local authority for failing to tackle smog, which is a severe issue in many cities in the country, causing respiratory diseases and preventing people from going outdoors.
The Chinese government is considering amending its Environmental Protection Law so that the new legislation would hold “polluters accountable for the damage they cause and having them compensate for it”.
China’s environment minister Zhou Shengxian told China Radio International that there are some challenges in fighting air pollution through the current legislation.
“First, some companies illegally and stealthily emit pollutants. They fail to fulfill their social responsibilities”, he said.
“Secondly, some local governments protect those companies. They are still deeply influenced by the mindset of GDP growth-worship.
“Thirdly, the environmental authorities’ supervision is not sufficient and in some cases non-existent.”
The government recently admitted that 71 of the 74 largest Chinese cities fail to comply with air and water pollution standards.
The smog crisis surged in February in Beijing, when the city issued its first ever orange alert. Authorities asked citizens to stay indoors because of the high levels of PM 2.5. Meanwhile in December, particulate pollutants reached hazardous levels in Shanghai as well.
Air pollution has been indicated by former Chinese health minister Chen Zhu to be the cause of up to 500,000 premature deaths in the country.
Following ever-increasing concern, the Chinese government has committed to tackle the problem by slowing plans for new coal-fired power plants and setting up £990m of financial rewards for companies that decide to clean up their operations.