China no longer willing to pay environmental cost

Updated 2017-12-19 11:00:18 China Daily

Only those who profit from the practice are likely to disagree with the proposition that those who damage the environment should bear the costs of remedying the harm they cause.

And given the fact that more than half of the country's rivers and lakes have been seriously polluted and vast stretches of farmland have been contaminated with toxic heavy metals in some provinces, the country can no longer afford to let polluters get away with their dirty deeds.

Getting industry to pay to clean up its mess has been long overdue. Now the environmental damage compensation mechanism that has been successfully trialed in Chongqing municipality and Jilin, Shandong, Jiangsu, Hunan, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces since 2015, is to be rolled out across the country on Jan 1, which means polluting companies and individuals will have to repair the damage they do to the environment or else pay compensation.

In the most recent case, a company in Guizhou province was ordered to pay more than 9 million yuan (.36 million) to treat the environmental damage caused by the sewage it discharged.

The move to extend the mechanism nationwide makes a lot of sense as, in addition to protecting people from potential harm and taxpayers from having to pay the cost of environmental rehabilitation, the trial has also shown that making polluters pay is an effective means of reducing the harm done to the environment in the first place.

Having the onus to clear up any mess they make means enterprises are more willing to upgrade their facilities to reduce the pollutants they discharge and the risks of any accidents that may cause environmental damage.

The move shows the country is committed to a change of approach that attaches more importance to the quality rather than the quantity of economic development, in order to ensure there are lush mountains and clean rivers.

The days when environmental pollution was the price the country was willing to pay for its rapid economic growth are now in the past.

Hopefully, local governments will now carry out the polluter-pays game plan to the letter and show no leniency to those that harm the environment.

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