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The first Central Inspection Team sends feedback to Beijing
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The first Central Environmental Protection Inspection Team launched environmental inspection on Beijing from Nov. 29 to Dec. 29, 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 municipal government at a meeting that was chaired by the Mayor Cai Qi on Apr. 12. The Leader of the inspection team Ma Wen delivered the inspection results, and Secretary of the municipal Party committee Guo Jinlong made remarks in response. Deputy Leader Zhao Yingmin, other inspectors concerned, the leadership of the municipal Party committee and municipal government, as well as heads of relevant departments attended the meeting.

The inspection team held that since the year 2013, the Beijing municipal Party committee and municipal government have learnt and practiced the guidelines of the important statements of General Secretary Xi Jinping, put ecological development and environmental protection on a more important position, followed the guidance of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei cooperative development strategy, strengthened the decisions and deployments, tightened the environmental governance by law, and made new strides in protecting the local environment.

In February 2014, Xi delivered an important statement in his tour around Beijing, identifying the capital’s strategic position, and pointing out a direction for the city’s future development. On this basis, the municipal Party committee and government introduced a series of important documents to disperse the capital’s functions, promote the integration of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, and work out area-wide coordination mechanism for the ecological environment protection.

Since the year 2013, Beijing has spent a total of 68.3 bn. yuan in environmental governance. The combined coal consumption had been cut from 23 mil. t in 2013 to 9.5 mil. t in 2016. The city took the lead in eliminating yellow-tagged vehicles, and a total of 1.91 mil. obsolete vehicles had been taken out of street. More environmental infrastructures had been developed, including wastewater treatment plants and municipal solid waste incinerators.

Moreover, the city released local regulations on air and water pollution control and introduced 60 plus local environmental standards. It took the lead in phasing in the national Stage vehicle emission standard and Stage standard for oil products. Also, a fairly complete emergency response mechanism against heavy air pollution had been established, and support had been given to provide good air quality for major events such as APEC meeting and “9.3” military parade.

As a result, the mean annual concentration of PM2.5 went down 18.4 percent in 2016 from the 2013 level, and that of SO2 dropped 62.3 percent. The water environment in some part had been improved. Positive progress had been made in ecological governance, and the forest coverage had been brought to 42 percent.

During the monthlong central inspection, Beijing cooperated closely with the inspection team. By the end of February, all of the 2,346 environmental problems handed over by the team had been handled, having 1,220 enterprises make rectifications, imposing fines on 188 enterprises, holding 28 persons in custody, having 624 persons summoned for talks, and holding 45 persons accountable.

The inspectors pointed it out that in spite of the aforementioned progress made in eco-environmental protection, Beijing was still unable to solve certain chronic problems, and the environmental management in the urban areas proved extensive.

The implementation of environmental protection efforts and the assessment of and accountability for them were inadequate. Some of the community-level officials attributed the local environmental problems to objective causes such as imported air pollutants or lack of water resources, instead of their poor awareness and efforts.

Huaneng Beijing Thermal Power Plant did not complete its new project on gas-fired power generating units on schedule, but was marked otherwise in the assessment. Seven districts failed the clean air initiative in 2014, but the results were not made public and responsible organizations and individuals were not held accountable.

The city’s air quality management was weak as well. The control of pollution from heavy-duty, diesel-fueled vehicles and non-road mobile machinery was not effective. Daxing became the most polluted district in 2016. Shunyi missed its PM2.5 reduction goals for two consecutive years, and its dust fall topped the city.

The control of cooking fume in open barbeques and the airborne dust in construction sites, on roads, and in stockyards was not tough. More than 4,800 out of the 9,000 plus construction waste trucks were not monitored at all, which led to illegal waste dumping now and then.

The development of local environmental infrastructures was behind schedule, and the operation and management of them was extensive. In 2015, 106 out of the 206 surface water monitoring sections citywide were recorded with water quality that failed their respective functions. A large amount of wastewater was discharge untreated and it was common for the enterprises to emit air pollutants at a level far beyond what is permitted by emission standards.

Eleven out of the 21 in-service municipal solid waste treatment facilities operated with excessive workload, and none of the 14 planned sludge treatment projects was completed on schedule. Around 900,000 t sludge was generated annually by the wastewater treatment plants owned by Beijing Drainage Corporation, and 70 percent was stored in four temporary stockyards, with smelly odor disturbing the local residents badly. The leachate from landfill sites and kitchen residues posed serious problems too.

Moreover, the municipal wastewater and garbage was discharged and dumped without any treatment in the urban-rural fringe areas on the sixth ring road, where there are dense populations, a considerable amount of low-end industries, and underdeveloped environmental infrastructures.

The inspectors demanded that Beijing resolutely implement the guiding principles of the important statements of General Xi Jinping in his tour around Beijing, work faster to disperse non-capital functions, take the lead in the collaborative development of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, and enhance urban development especially the development of environmental infrastructures. Also, it should continue to control air and water pollution, strengthen the ecological improvement and drinking water source protection, and accelerate the development of construction waste reduction, decontamination, and resource-use facilities. The local Party committees and governments should be equally responsible for environmental protection, and the performance assessment system and ecological damage accountability system targeting leading Party and government officials should be improved.

The inspection team emphasized that the municipal 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 municipal Party committee and government for further processing.