The sixth Central Environmental Protection Inspection Team launched environmental inspection on Shaanxi Province from Nov. 28 to Dec. 28, in an effort to implement the major decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. The team gave feedback to the provincial government at a meeting that was chaired by the Governor Hu Heping on Apr. 11, 2017. The Leader of the inspection team Li Jiaxiang delivered the inspection results, and Secretary of the provincial Party committee Lou Qinjian made remarks in response. Deputy Leader Zhao Yingmin, other inspectors concerned, the leadership of the provincial Party committee and provincial government, as well as heads of relevant departments attended the meeting.
The inspection team held that since the year 2013, Shaanxi provincial Party committee and provincial government have learnt and practiced the guidelines of the important statements and instructions of the General Secretary Xi Jinping and adopted the major initiative of building a beautiful Shaanxi. They have defined the environmental protection responsibilities of the local Party committee, government, and relevant departments, worked out measures to hold the leading Party and government officials accountable for ecological damages, and launched province-wide environmental inspections.
The province put in place a local regulation on air pollution control earlier than most provinces, and implemented five-year initiative and annual work plans for smog control. More than 9,400 coal-fired boilers have been torn down, and thermal power generating units with a combined capacity of 15.64 mil. kW have been upgraded for lower emissions since 2013.
Also, it spent a total of 14.3 bn. yuan in 613 projects over three years to control water pollution in Weihe River basin. As a result, the water quality of the mainstream of the Weihe River has been improved. It also carried out integrated river basin management in other rivers, and dismantled unapproved luxury buildings in Qinling Mountains.
It continued with the farmland for forest, natural forest protection, shelter forecast plantation, and sandstorm source treatment projects, cut down the water and soil erosion by 30,000 km2, brought the forest coverage up to 43.1 percent, and restored 2.46 mil. mu degraded wetlands by establishing 31 national parks and nine nature reserves. Around 450,000 local residents have been relocated for ecological conservation purposes.
The province cooperated closely with the central inspection team. By the end of February, all of the 1,309 environmental problems assigned by the team had been handled, shutting down 222 enterprises, filing 363 cases, holding 26 persons in custody, having 492 persons summoned for talks, and holding 938 persons accountable.
However, there are still considerable problems with regard to the local ecological and environmental protection effort. The environmental awareness still needs to be raised. Local officials still consider economic growth a mandatory indicator and environmental protection a flexible one.
The environmental infrastructure was outdated in Xixian New District, and almost 40,000 t industrial and municipal wastewater was discharged without any treatment. The Guanzhong Area already struggled with prominent air pollution due to a lion’s share of heavy chemical industry, but the thermal power installed capacity, the output of coal chemical industry, and the output of cement clinkers still grew by 13.0 percent, 17.7 percent, and 8.4 percent in 2015 from two years ago.
The provincial reform and development committee reduced the coal consumption by 2.95 mil. t, missing the 10 mil. t target in 2014, and cut it down by 110,000 t in 2015, far behind the 3 mil. t goal. The competent provincial industry department has been weak in eliminating outdated production capacities.
Guanzhong Area faced daunting air quality problems. Xi’an has become one of the most polluted provincial capitals, and Xianyang and Weinan saw drastic growth of mean annual PM10 and PM2.5 readings in 2016. Some municipal wastewater treatment plants in Xi’an discharge untreated wastewater into rivers because they didn’t have enough pipelines. Jiangcungou landfill site discharged untreated leachate into Tangjiazhai Reservoir since it was founded in 1994, which caused serious pollution and was complained a lot by the local residents. The inspectors also found air quality monitoring data fraud in two districts of Xi’an.
There were serious ecological damages in key ecological preservation areas. The mineral and stone mining activities have destroyed the ecological environment of Qinling Mountains for years, and the 2016 satellite data showed more than 60 percent of the 270 mining sites broke laws or regulations and wreaked havoc on the ecological environment in an area of over 3,500 ha..
The Weibei Belt was vulnerable to ecological damages due to illegal stone mining activities as well. The mineral and sand mining, and reclamation activities were carried out in another 14 national or provincial nature reserves, which were illegal activities that disrupted the ecosystems.
The inspection team required that Shaanxi provincial Party committee and government assume equal responsible for protecting the local environment, make earnest efforts to improve the air quality in Guanzhong, well preserve the ecological environment of Qinling Mountains and Weibei Belt, and improve the water quality of Weihe and other rivers.
The inspection team emphasized that the provincial Party committee and government should work out a rectification plan soon based on the Environmental Protection Inspection Program (on trial) and the above feedback, and submit the plan to the State Council within 30 working days. The rectification plan and the results will be made public.
The team also straightened out the cases on the accountability for local ecological damages, and handed them over to the provincial Party committee and government for further processing.