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Environmental compensation surges

China Daily,July 02, 2020 Adjust font size:

Over 2.9 billion yuan ($410 million) in punitive compensation for environmental damages has been collected across the country as China endeavors to improve a regulatory system needed for the smooth implementation of a compensation mechanism, a senior environmental official said.

The funds, which were collected in 945 cases since the mechanism was launched as a pilot program in 2015, have effectively promoted remediation of a large amount of environmentally damaged soil, forest, grassland and water bodies and the clearance of solid waste, Bie Tao, head of law, regulations and standards at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, told a news conference on Tuesday.

The mechanism was fully implemented across the country in 2017.

According to the ministry, in one of the cases, a company in Chongqing paid almost 9.5 million yuan for environmental and ecological damages it caused.

The company, the name of which was not disclosed, discharged concrete waste into 14,400 square meters of farmland from 2007 to 2019.

The discharge resulted in water and soil loss and also hardened the farmland's soil.

In addition to paying compensation, which is calculated based on damage assessment, the company also had to clean up the damaged land.

Bie said about 80 percent of the nation's compensation cases occurred in 13 provincial regions, each of which has over 20 cases.

There are, however, no more than 10 cases in some other regions.

This means that some regional governments have not made adequate efforts to claim compensation as required, he noted.

According to Bie, in 2019 central authorities requested that high-profile central ecological and environmental inspectors conduct checks to determine whether major ecological and environmental damages have been properly compensated.

"If local governments don't claim compensation as required, they will be held accountable in the inspection. It's dereliction of duty," he stressed.

Marked progress has been made in promoting the compensation mechanism through legislation and drafts of relevant standards for damage assessment, though more still needs to be done to pave the way for implementation, Bie noted.

The mechanism has been written into the Civil Code, which was passed by the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, late in May, and laws on soil and solid waste pollution as well as one regarding forests, he said.

Meanwhile, 157 of the 337 cities above prefecture level have drafted plans for the implementation of the compensation mechanism.

In total, these cities published over 200 documents to support the implementation, he added.

With eight assessment specifications for different types of environmental damage, however, the country has yet to establish a standard assessment system that is adequate. Currently, China still lacks assessment standards for some highly technical sectors.

"What's more, many regions are short-handed, lacking people with proper expertise for damage evaluation," he said.