According to experts, in the nation’s 13th Five-Year Plan, the Chinese leaders should establish that protection of the public’s health and the nation’s water, air and other criticalnatural resources has the same importance as economic prosperity.
In this way, the explicit linking of economic growth with protection of the public health and environment would represent a powerful statement and symbol for the Chinese citizens.
To achieve concrete results, leaders need to foster sustained implementation and enforcement of the various health and environmental laws that China has adopted, including the recent revised Environment Law.
Additionally, the 13th Five-Year Plan might include some measures such as a national coal cap, maximum daily pollution restrictions and strict limits on small particulate matter (PM 2.5) for all Chinese cities.
Moreover, a stronger mandate for citizen collaboration in solving the nation’s water and air-pollution problems will be a concrete instrument to protect the public health and environment, experts add.
In this framework, citizen engagement will take two forms: implementation and enforcement.
The 13th Five-Year Plan should direct regional and local governments to increase public participation by individuals, non-governmental organisations and academic research institutions, in order to ensure the implementation of the projects. In this way, the plan will help to determine the best local anti-pollution strategies.
Once local priorities are set, the plan should require that the public is authorized to cooperate with the government to identify violators in the community, in order to remedy violations.
In addition to that, the plan should introduce stronger incentives to encourage local officials to strengthen environmental and public-participation standards.
Also, the 13th Five-Year Plan should require that all polluting companies install pollution monitoring equipment releasing monitoring data, as a concrete strategy to facilitate effective citizen involvement in addressing local pollution. In this way, these important data would be accessible to the public.
This strategy should also require a broader diffusion of pollution survey data compiled by the Ministry of Environmental Protection: these data could be used by citizens at courts, as evidence of pollution violations. In relation to that, citizens and non-governmental organizations should encourage to bring public interest of environmental lawsuits against illegal polluters. Additionally, courts should hear these pollution cases in a timely manner.
In this context, regional and local governments are working on new clean air plans established in the 12th Five-Year Plan and in the State Council Directive in September 2013. Authorities could host public participation events inviting public comments.
With concrete measures, the public would play a significant role, being a crucial ally to local government officials charged with redressing excessive pollution.
In this framework, experts stress that local governments and local communities cooperating together can play a central role to solve Chinese pressing pollution challenges. In relation to that, the 13th Five-Year Plan should undertake an environmental protection system to guarantee that local governments collaborate with the public.
The gLAWcal Team
Thursday, 30 October 2014