BEIJING • China's environment ministry has been given powers to send inspection teams to provinces and regions across the country as part of its efforts to root out local polluters, the official China Daily newspaper reported yesterday.
The paper said the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) would be the second national authority, after China's corruption watchdog, Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, to have the power to send inspection teams and hold discussions with provincial leaders.
Citing the head of the National Environmental Protection Inspection Office Liu Changgen, China Daily said another 14 provinces would be subject to a central government-led probe following the completion of inspections in heavy industrial Hebei in northern China earlier this year.
China has been trying to strengthen its environmental powers as part of a "war on pollution" launched in 2014 to try to reverse the damage done by decades of untrammelled growth.
The ministry said last week that Hebei, which has been on the frontline of the war on pollution, had failed to put enough pressure on city-level governments to meet standards.
Inspections revealed that a number of firms in Hebei, home to seven of China's 10 smoggiest cities, had illegally expanded production capacity and engaged in "fraudulent practices", the ministry said.
Figures released on Thursday showed the MEP had imposed total fines of 115.97 million yuan (S$24 million) in the first quarter of this year, and had closed or suspended production at 301 polluting projects.
It named cities like Pucheng in Shanxi province, Fuyang in Anhui and Urumqi in the far northwestern Xinjiang region as examples, and said it would carry out inspections of the regions at an appropriate time.