The fourth Central Inspection Team launched environmental inspection on Anhui from Apr. 27 to May 27 to implement the major decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on the inspection. The team gave feedback to the provincial Party committee and provincial government at a meeting that was chaired by Governor Li Guoying on Jul. 29. Chief Inspector Zhu Zhixin delivered the inspection report, and Secretary of the provincial Party committee Li Jinbin made remarks in response. Deputy Chief Inspector Zhai Qing, other inspectors concerned, the leaderships of the provincial Party committee and provincial government, as well as the heads of relevant departments attended the meeting.
The inspection team held that Anhui has put ecological and environmental protection on an important position, established the provincial Environmental Protection Committee, and introduced implementation plans for molding the Anhui model for promoting ecological progress and for the reforms on ecological civilization institutions. Also, the provincial leaders have been asked to take responsibility for making sure the key cities, areas, and industries rectify their prominent environmental problems.
Furthermore, Anhui has worked on establishing the eco-compensation mechanisms, and piloted the cross-province watershed (Xin’an River Basin) eco-compensation mechanism, the first of its kind across the country. The provincial government has spent 200 mil. yuan as eco-compensations to preserve the water resources in Dabie Mountains.
Also, Anhui has vigorously protected the Yangtze River economic belt from heavily polluting chemical industrial projects, launched environmental management of the drinking water sources along the river banks, upgraded 23.75 mil. kW coal-fired power generating capacity, spent 1.14 bn. yuan as rewards for stalk utilization instead of incineration, and actively fought water pollution in the Huaihe River.
Anhui attached great importance to the central environmental protection inspection, seriously investigated and punished the reported cases and made them public. By the end of June, all of the 3,719 environmental problems handed over by the team had been handled, as a result of which 3,113 enterprises were ordered to make rectifications, 803 ones were fined with a total penalty of 26.352 mil. yuan, 52 cases were filed with 63 persons held in custody, 637 persons were summoned for talks, and 476 individuals were held accountable.
The inspectors pointed it out that in spite of the positive progress in protecting the local environment, Anhui still prioritized economic development over environmental protection and left certain area-wide environmental problems unsettled.
First, there had been weak points in implementing the decisions and deployments of the central authorities on environmental protection. The environmental awareness of the some leading officials needed to be strengthened. The local regulations on control of water pollution to Chaohu Lake basin were not effectively implemented and the illegal development activities were still rampant.
In 2016, the provincial government gave more weight to economic growth and less to ecological environment in the annual performance evaluation of prefectural cities, which was misleading in government performance evaluation.
Some of the provincial government departments and prefectural cities had not been strict with their work. The water resources department, in spite of a survey, still couldn’t provide an accurate number of the sewage outlets that empty into rivers, and a lot of them discharged pollutants way beyond the discharge standards. Huaibei and Suzhou misreported four black water treatment projects that were either not commenced or completed as finished projects, and the provincial urban and rural development department overlooked the mistake. The Yaojiaowan sewage outlet, which was inside a Grade II drinking water source protected area, still discharged over 40,000 t untreated wastewater every day one month after it was connected to a wastewater treatment plant.
Second, the water protection of Chaohu Lake Basin remained grim. The algal bloom outbreaks have been frequent in recent years, and they covered 42.2 percent of the lake area in 2015 and 31.2 percent in 2016. Parts of the lakeshore wavebreak forests and other wetlands, with a combined area of 908,000 m2, were misused as dump sites of construction wastes. Also, about 2,000 mu lake area had been reclaimed for tourism development. Three contributing rivers of the lake, Shiwuli River, Nanfei River and Paihe River, were badly polluted, bringing large amount of pollutants to the lake.
Third, the key watersheds and areas encountered prominent environmental problems. Seven out of the 27 secondary and tertiary tributaries of Huaihe River met Grade Ⅴ standard, and 10 failed this standard in 2016. The wastewater infrastructure was underdeveloped, and wastewater treatment capacity was insufficient in Huaibei, Huainan, Bozhou, and Suzhou, as a result of which untreated municipal wastewater was discharged directly into rivers. Moreover, the municipal solid waste treatment capacity was significantly short of the needs in Suzhou and Bozhou. The municipal wastes stockpiled in pools without taking anti-leakage measures, and the leachate accessed the environment through ditches, causing serious pollution.
Moreover, the northern part of the province suffered acute air pollution. Specifically, the air quality worsened the most significantly in Suzhou and Bozhou, which could be attributed to small coal-fired boilers, flying dust in mines, and slow progress in oil and gas recovery.
Fourth, some of the prominent environmental problems remained unresolved for a long period of time. Twenty-four out of the 163 national and provincial industrial parks were void of centralized wastewater treatment facilities, and another 15 ones could not keep wastewater treatment plants operate regularly due to poor supporting infrastructure.
The unapproved development projects including the tourism, livestock and poultry breeding and real estate development activities in the core zone and buffer zone of Shengjin Lake National Nature Reserve were rampant and the water quality of the reserve deteriorated from Grade Ⅱ in 2013 to Grade Ⅳ in 2016.
The inspection team required that Anhui firmly establish the “four awareness”, shoulder the political mission of promoting ecological progress, and spare no effort to mold the Anhui model and build a beautiful homeland. It should focus on improving the environmental quality, take resolute actions to implement the action plans on tackling air, water, and soil pollution, and work faster on the treatment and protection of Chaohu Lake, the integrated management of industrial parks, and the regulation of nature reserves. Moreover, it should work harder to ask the Party committees and governments to take equal responsibility for environmental protection and implement the “one position with dual responsibility” system, pursue liability in accordance with laws and regulations, order relevant departments to further probe the identified problems, clarify the liabilities and conduct accountability seriously.
The inspection team emphasized that the provincial Party committee and provincial government should work out a rectification plan soon based on the Environmental Protection Inspection Program (on trial) and the above feedback, and report back to the State Council within 30 working days. The rectification plan and the results will be made public.
The team also straightened out the cases on the accountability for local ecological damages, and handed them over to the provincial Party committee and provincial government for further processing.
(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)