Odious Debts

Big polluters emboldened by local governments that ignore violations

by Ma Jun, Shanghai Daily

May 18, 2007
It is critical for China’s slowly progressing environmental campaign to strengthen supervision and loosen the interest bonds between money and power – a tall order.

Many polluters in China are not afraid of environmental watchdogs and media scrutiny because they have two aces in the hole – window-dressing and protective umbrellas from their local governments.

The Shandong Chenming Paper Holdings Ltd is a leading paper company in China. It is also an unabashed environmental polluter, says the Economic Information Daily.

The paper reported on Tuesday that Chenming Paper has been piping chemical wastewater into the Xiaoqing River for more than 10 years. Since 2003 wasterwater has been discharged through covered canals, flowing over dozens of kilometers into Laizhou Bay.

The toxic wastewater kills marine life and is harmful to human health.

On its Website, the paper giant announces that it has invested 443 million yuan (US$58 million) in several recycling programs and has received – as the first among all Chinese paper manufacturers – the ISO14001 Environmental Management System Certification.

These might be only window dressing. Most of the wastewater recycling equipment are usually not in operation because of the great daily expense. They are only turned on when environment inspectors come.

A spokesman from Chenming said that Chenming is a nationally celebrated company, and is not afraid of any negative reporting.

Someone informed the newspaper before the reporters arrived, and the municipal government held an urgent conference. It decided that none of the enterprises’ executives in their district could give interview without government permission.

Pan Yue, vice-minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration, said on a TV talkshow on May 13, that a key to solve the industrial pollution problems is to prevent local governments from shielding enterprises that are in violation of the law – out of self-interest.

Categories: Odious Debts

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