China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection Given More Power to Inspect Provinces

China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has been given more power to inspect all provinces, making it the country’s second highest authority allowed to send inspection teams and hold meetings with provincial leaders after the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, China Daily reported.

According to Liu Changgen, head of the National Environmental Protection Inspection Office, 14 more provinces will now be subject to the inspection of the central government this year.

The news came after a pilot mission in Hebei Province was successfully completed. Insiders, however, noted that there is no final date yet when the ministry will begin its inspection, adding that plans for follow-up inspections are still subject to the approval of national authorities.

Disclosed on Wednesday, the Hebei inspection showed that the province is facing wide-ranging environmental problems, from ineffective law and regulation implementation to rapid ecological degradation.

Liu noted that central-level authorities worked hand in hand with top provincial officials during the month-long investigation in the province, currently regarded as one of China’s heavily polluted areas. Hebei accounts for around 25 percent of China’s steel output.

The environment ministry noted that Hebei has five of China’s top 10 cities with the worst air pollution.

To efficiently address provincial-level issues, Liu said that the ministry has already laid out plans as to how inspection teams will be utilized. He stated that the teams will prioritize assessing how local officials “have met their promises and solved problems the inspectors find.”

The ministry has formed a group of 120 individuals dedicated to carrying out inspections. The group aims to cover all provincial areas every two years.

According to Zhang Xiaode, director of the Ecological Civilization Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Governance, “there has always been less enthusiasm about environmental protection at local . . . because many government officials are mainly assessed on the GDP growth rate of the area they serve,” China Daily noted.

“We need to set up a fundamental system to supervise environmental protection,” Zhang said, adding that “central government inspections will help spur local authorities to devote more efforts to environmental protection.”