Inspectors dispatched by the Ministry of Environmental Protection were locked up at a boiler factory in Jinan, Shandong Province, for more than one hour on April 16.
The plant, owned by Shandong Lujie Green Technology Co., has a coal-fired boiler that should have been phased out, and no equipment had been installed to reduce dust and other discharges.
The inspection was part of the largest ever national environmental protection effort to date, which involves 5,600 inspectors carrying out a yearlong inspection of 28 major cities, including Beijing and Tianjin, in a bid to reduce air pollution.
The incident nevertheless underlines the lack of legal awareness among some business people as well as inadequate popularization of environmental protection statutes.
Since the beginning of this year, top officials at the Ministry of Environmental Protection have led multiple inspection teams to conduct inspections in enterprises without advance notification. The strict and solid work style has exerted high pressure on polluters. However, the recent resurgence of environmental protection violations detected by the inspection teams indicates that local environmental protection authorities have not taken real action to tighten law enforcement.
A long-term mechanism should be put in place to oblige local governments to address environmental problems.
Also, local government officials should alter their mindset by ceasing to regard GDP as the sole criterion for assessing their performance and give more priority to environmental protection.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in the Guangming Daily on April 18)