More than 3,400 officials have already been held accountable for poor performance
Central environmental inspection teams will visit seven provincial-level regions to push policymakers to improve efforts on environmental protection, the national environmental authority said.
It's the second set of inspections since the initiative was launched in January, following the pilot project in Hebei and the inspection of eight provincial-level regions in the first set.
Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, and the provinces of Hubei, Guangdong, Shaanxi and Gansu, will undergo top-level environmental inspections, headed by ministerial-level officials and deputy ministers of environmental protection, according to a statement by the Ministry of Environmental Protection on Thursday.
All teams will start the monthlong inspection by the end of November, the ministry said, adding that inspections in Chongqing started on Thursday.
The inspection teams will review the governments' performance to see if they have met set standards or neglected their duties in relation to pollution control, and will investigate major issues frequently reported by the public, said Zhang Baoshun, leader of the inspection team in Chongqing.
Government officials will be major targets in the inspections, so the team is urging them to perform better on protecting the environment, Zhang added.
Sun Zhengcai, the top official of Chongqing, urged governments to fully support the central inspectors and use the inspections to improve pollution-control measures.
Inspectors will hold talks with leading officials, conduct field investigations on pollution, receive reports from the public via phone calls and mail, and review official documents.
The inspections are seen as a major way of encouraging leading officials to perform better, given the threat of strict punishment such as suspension from their positions.
In the first set of provincial-level regions that were inspected - Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Henan and Yunnan provinces, and the Inner Mongolia, Guangxi Zhuang and Ningxia Hui autonomous regions - more than 3,400 government officials were held accountable due to their poor performance, according to official statements.
The statements revealed issues commonly found in the eight inspected regions, including insufficient attention paid by leadership to environmental protection, lax implementation of pollution-controlling measures and excessive exploitation of resources in natural reserves.
Some areas have experienced environmental degradation, with air, water and soil quality suffering, the statements said.