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Lawmakers seek to give public more legal teeth in environmental affairs

By Yan Hao (Xinhua)

08:57, August 31, 2012

BEIJING, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- China's national lawmakers are debating to what extent the public should be allowed to participate in, and how much negotiating power the public should have, in environmental issues set by the government.

With increasing numbers of protests against controversial government projects in China, members of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, the country's top legislature, on Thursday agreed that a draft amendment to the Environmental Protection Law should address rising public discontent.

"When the public has inadequate channels for expressing their concerns and protecting their interests, the existing laws will not work for environmental protection," lawmaker Xie Kechang said during the first reading of the draft amendment.

China's Environmental Protection Law was introduced in 1979 and has stood unchanged since it was officially enacted in 1989, when the country's economy started to boom by becoming the world's leading manufacturing hub.

As booming industries consume massive amounts of water, soil, minerals, labor and other resources, the public have less tolerance for, and more awareness of, hazardous pollution, which also led to the environmental protection agency being upgraded to a Cabinet-level organ in March 2008.

"The law should add an open and effective procedure for the public to participate in approving a government project that may arouse environmental concerns," Xie said.

The local government in the eastern city of Qidong last month canceled an industrial waste pipeline project hours after thousands of angry residents protested against the planned project.

The protest came on the heels of similar demonstrations against industrial projects in the southwestern city of Shifang in July and in the northeastern city of Dalian last year.

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