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Green watchdog grants approval to 153 projects

The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) said on Friday it has granted approval to 153 projects around the country involving investments of around 470 billion yuan.

Most of these are part of the 4-trillion-yuan economic stimulus package announced by the government in November.

Among the projects cleared, 31 are involved in infrastructure development, such as transportation and water conservation, totaling 139.3 billion yuan, MEP said.

The national environmental watchdog said it had rejected 11 high energy consumption and heavy polluting projects to protect the country's ecology.

Involving a total budget of 43.8 billion yuan, the rejected projects were mostly coal-fired power plants or resource-intensive coal chemical plants, a spokesperson of MEP said.

China conducts environmental impact evaluations of single projects, such as road constructions.

According to China's Environment Impact Assessment Law, which took effect in 2003, an environmental review report, which not only identifies a project's potential impacts to the environment but also proposes measurements to mitigate them, should be finished and win approval from MEP before the construction starts.

Since the central government published its fiscal stimulus plan, the MEP has sped up the review process of environmental assessment reports on proposed projects.

"MEP has opened a 'green passage' to projects that are deemed to have the effect of boosting domestic demand," the MEP spokesperson said.

"But we have also set up a 'fire wall' to block projects that fall short on environmental standards," the spokesman said.

MEP has set more stringent environmental assessment standards for energy-intensive and heavy-polluting projects to prevent local governments from pursuing economic growth at the cost of environmental protection.

The expert panel of China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development has warned that some local governments are still putting higher economic growth ahead of environmental protection despite the central government's determination to maintain sustainable growth.

Other ministries also chipped in to help minimize environmental risks. The Ministry of Land and Resources has banned the use of land for construction of energy-intensive and heavy polluting projects.

Liu Jiayi, head of the National Audit Office, said the auditing office would oversee the implementation of macro-control measures, focusing on discouraging investment in energy-intensive and heavy polluting projects and overcapacity industries.

Source:China Daily

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