China environment woe blames on lack of planning

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Beining, Nov 8: Lack of central planning, ministerial infighting and a pervasive get-rich-quick attitude mean China's environmental problems are not going away any time soon, a state newspaper today quoted an official as saying.

Many Chinese cities are enveloped in choking smog, including 2008 Olympic host Beijing, while rivers run black and green areas are denuded as the country's economy continues to boom.

Pan Yue, deputy head of the State Environmental Protection Administration, said the group could only do so much to help given its limited powers and urged local governments be more responsible, according to the official People's Daily.

Pan said the environmental assessment process that industry must pass to build new factories or mines was ''blocked at the front, and harried by troops at the rear''.

That's to say it faced an impossible task -- unable to better the process without improved laws, and constantly being pushed by companies and governments to approve their projects.

''There are many reasons for China's environmental problems, but the most serious is a lack of a planning structure, which has brought enormous, hidden environmental safety worries,'' he said.

Pan said that while his administration did indeed have to sign off on projects, it did not have the power to ensure cities or provinces did not cram a whole series of polluting factories into one area.

''It's not rational to squeeze them in all in together,'' Pan said, being quoted in a newspaper which is an important Communist Party mouthpiece.

''Whether or not an area's ecology can stand such projects, needs an overall environmental assessment,'' he added.

Localities were normally more interested in short term economic gains than the longer health or environmental impact, Pan said.

''This has meant that in the last two years, regions and departments have no supporting planning work and have come up with many reasons to avoid their planning responsibility,'' he said.

Rules supposed to tackle this issue were meant to have come out in August or September but have been pushed back due to ''many differences in view from certain departments'', Pan added.

''I want to stress again, these rules are not about expanding the power of the environmental protection agency,'' he said.

''They are a concept, a scientific development concept,'' Pan added, refering to a policy of President Hu Jintao's now enshrined in the Communist Party's constitution that espouses gentler, more environmentally friendly growth.


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