Thousands took to the streets to oppose the expansion of a petrochemical plant in Ningbo, Zhejiang province. (Internet photo)
Protests concerning incidents of environmental pollution in China are growing by an average of 29% every year, reports our Chinese-language sister paper Want Daily.
At a recent meeting of the standing committee of the National People's Congress, Yang Chaofei, vice chairman of the Chinese Society of Environmental Sciences, said that the number of major environmental incidents soared by 120% last year due to a number of emergencies involving heavy metals and other hazardous substances.
The situation is leading to a rise in local protests on account of pollution, Yang said, with 927 cases handled by the country's Ministry of Environmental Protection since 2005. Seventy-two of the cases involve major environmental incidents, he added.
Yang said the country lacks proper channels to allow the public proper access to environmental data and its laws on environmental protection are unclear. Regulations are also too abstract and impractical, he said, which has led to a lot of discontent among the younger generation born after 1990 that has grown much more aware of green issues.
Yang recommended setting up a platform for members of the public to get involved in discourse about the environment, as well as developing a more complete legal framework and a better system of environmental impact assessment for enterprises and government infrastructure projects. He also advocated setting up round-table forums in communities to present feedback to the government and enterprises on environmental issues.
The BBC previously posted an article on its Chinese website which implied that Beijing routinely ignores environmental issues. The public is fed up with "seemingly scientific" environmental impact assessments that usually conclude that there is no impact or that the commercial benefits outweigh the environmental costs, according to the BBC report.
The lack of faith in China's environmental protection movement stems from the lack of public participation and channels of communication, the report said, adding that the country's NGOs are often under the control of the government.
The current system has resulted in numerous large-scale protests which often spiral out of control. More than 10,000 people were involved in recent protests against the expansion of a petrochemical plant in the eastern coastal city of Ningbo, while nearly 100,000 people were caught up in violent clashes with the police while protesting the construction of a sewage pipeline near the city of Qidong in Jiangu province.
Both incidents received global media attention and became hot topics on the internet in China. In both cases, the government ultimately bowed to public pressure and suspended the projects.
Yang Chaofei 楊朝飛