National People’s Congress

New ministries to focus on pollution, environment

Mr Wang Yong presented the changes to the NPC. Steel factories in Hancheng, in China's Shaanxi province. Safeguarding the environment is a key goal for Beijing.
Steel factories in Hancheng, in China's Shaanxi province. Safeguarding the environment is a key goal for Beijing.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Mr Wang Yong presented the changes to the NPC. Steel factories in Hancheng, in China's Shaanxi province. Safeguarding the environment is a key goal for Beijing.
Mr Wang Yong presented the changes to the NPC. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

China is setting up two ministries to better protect its environment and combat pollution.

The two ministries - the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Ecological Environment - are part of a proposed reshuffle of government departments presented to the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's Parliament, by state councillor Wang Yong.

The new Ministry of Ecological Environment, which replaces the existing Ministry of Environmental Protection, will tackle problems such as climate change and greenhouse emissions, issues that previously were under the purview of the National Development and Reform Commission.

It will also tackle sea, river and groundwater pollution, nuclear and radiation safety, formulate and implement policies, plans and standards on ecology and the environment, and monitor and enforce them, said Mr Wang.

He told almost 3,000 delegates assembled at the Great Hall of the People that the new ministry would "ensure the preservation of the country's ecology, and build a beautiful China".

Safeguarding the environment is a key goal for Beijing, with Chinese President Xi Jinping pledging to build a "beautiful China" with blue skies and clean air during the 19th Party Congress last year.

The world's largest polluter, China has remained committed to the Paris climate change accord despite the fact that the United States has said it would pull out from the treaty.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

The changes will strengthen environmental protection and regulation, but it will also be an internal challenge to integrate all these new responsibilities into the two new ministries.

MR MA JUN, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, who said the changes highlighted the urgency with which China's natural resources had to be protected.

Meanwhile, the new Ministry of Natural Resources will oversee the management of China's grasslands, forests, wetlands, water and maritime resources, and urban and township planning, tasks that were once the responsibilities of a number of different ministries or agencies. Its main responsibilities include developing and protecting these natural resources, and establishing a system for paid use of these resources.

The ministry will also be in charge of Beijing's reforestation push to help combat desertification, a scourge which has put the country's precious little arable land at risk.

Mr Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a non-governmental organisation, said the structural changes highlighted the urgency with which China's natural resources had to be protected.

"The changes will strengthen environmental protection and regulation, but it will also be an internal challenge to integrate all these new responsibilities into the two new ministries," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2018, with the headline 'New ministries to focus on pollution, environment'. Print Edition | Subscribe