April 20, 2001
Beijing: The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), China’s top environmental body, has released a tentative measure on public involvement in the nation’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process. The ruling, made public on February 22, is the outcome of nearly four months of deliberation following circulation of an early draft for public comment in November. It may see further revision as SEPA receives additional feedback. … The new measure, which takes effect March 18, has won general applause from environmentalists, who believe it provides the public with a concrete channel for participation. Just one day after its release, some 30 non-governmental activists, academic experts, and journalists held an informal seminar to discuss the regulation’s significance, as well as room for improvement. Environmentalists are concerned, for instance, that the proposed public comment period on EIA reports – currently a minimum of 10 days – is too short to ensure adequate public participation. They also raised skepticism about an exemption for projects deemed to be “state secrets,” worried that this term would likely be abused by developers to shun their environmental responsibilities. A possible way to avoid any manipulation, they suggest, is to make public the formal State Council documents that grant such status. … Read the full story.