China to roll out nationwide scheme to make polluters repair damage, pay compensation

Smoke billows from a chimney of a factory in rural Gaoyi county, near Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, China. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China plans to roll out nationwide by 2020 a system that forces polluters to repair damage to the environment or pay compensation, the official Xinhua news agency reported late on Sunday (Dec 17).

The move, which extends a scheme already piloted in seven provinces, marks the latest step in a crackdown on pollution that has been ramped up by the government this year.

China aims to establish a comprehensive damage-compensation system to protect its environment in the next three years, Xinhua reported, citing a document issued on Sunday by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council.

Individuals or companies that cause environmental damage will have to help restore the environment or pay compensation if damage is beyond repair, Xinhua reported. It did not give details on the amount of compensation that could be due.

The penalties are aimed at tightening oversight of land, water and air pollution, and holding companies accountable for the clean-up costs and restoring the ecological balance after major accidents.

There have been a series of major toxic chemical spills that have contaminated rivers and killed fish in recent years. The government is also considering a separate plan that would penalise offshore oil companies for damage to the marine environment.

The country has ramped up its war on pollution this year, shutting some factories and holding officials accountable after central inspections.

It has also launched an unprecedented campaign to switch millions of households and thousands of businesses from coal to natural gas in north China this winter.

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