China is cracking down on pollution by sending waves of environmental inspectors into some of the world’s most polluted cities and levying hefty fines.
In the latest round of these inspections, over 18,000 Chinese officials were cited for failing to protect the country’s natural resources since 2016.
Currently China’s official air quality contains pollutants (called PM2.5) at levels that greatly exceed the levels recommended by the World Health Organization. For example, while the WHO recommends that the PM2.5 level be lower than 10 micrograms, China’s is 35, while Beijing’s is over 60.
An extensive smog “battleplan” was released earlier this year to reduce PM2.5 more than 15 percent 28 cities in the northern provinces of Hebei, Henan, Shandong and Shanxi. China has pledged to reduce average PM2.5 levels to below 60 micrograms in Beijing by year’s end.
China’s poor performance in meeting worldwide environmental standards is an unwanted by-product of astronomical economic growth over the last three decades. In the interest of reform, from February 2016 Beijing began sending out rounds of environmental inspectors to discover and report violations against its efforts to reduce pollution.
Deputy Director at the National Environmental Inspection Office Liu Changgen said “In the next step, we will go through cases found during previous inspections and identify any higher-ranking officials for ill management.”
Local-ranking officials comprised the majority of officials caught red-handed making environmental violations, he said.
The campaign also is honing in on government officials who ignore violations to avoid missing local financial growth targets. Whole municipalities have been accused of rises in air pollution in reports by the environment ministry that cite administrative failures.
“The names of the officials, their jobs and their violations will be reported up the chain of command, who will decide how the officials will be punished,” said Liu.
“We will not let the inspection become a passing gust of wind,” he added. “It needs to keep blowing all the time.”