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The first Central Inspection Team sends feedback to Tianjin
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The first Central Inspection Team launched environmental inspection on Tianjin from Apr. 28 to May 28 to implement the major decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on the inspection. The team gave feedback to the municipal Party committee and municipal government at a meeting that was chaired by Mayor Wang Dongfeng on Jul. 29. Chief Inspector Jiang Jufeng delivered the inspection report, and Secretary of the municipal Party committee Li Hongzhong made remarks in response. Deputy Chief Inspector Zhao Yingmin, other inspectors concerned, the leadership of the municipal Party committee and municipal government, as well as the heads of relevant departments attended the meeting.

The inspection team held that since the year 2013, Tianjin has organized the “beautiful Tianjin” initiative and promoted the environmental protection with tough measures. It has further clarified the green development concept, given more weight to the environmental performance in the officials’ performance evaluation, put in place regulations on the environmental responsibilities and the accountability of Party and government leading officials for ecological damages, and held six negligent senior officials accountable.

Also, the city has introduced local regulations to curb air and water pollution, and released 12 local emission standards and the VOCs emission standards that target at 11 industries. It has set more strict pollution charging standards and spent 360 mil. yuan in an air quality monitoring system that covers 271 town streets, industrial parks, and key areas.

Moreover, Tianjin has spent over 52 bn. yuan since 2013 to advocate clean energy, upgraded 30 coal-fired power generating units (with a combined capacity of 9.3 mil. kW) for ultralow emission purposes and conducted integrated environmental management over 376 VOCs emitters.

Tianjin attached great importance to the central environmental protection inspection, seriously investigated and punished the reported cases and made them public. By the end of June, all of the 4,226 environmental problems handed over by the team had been handled, as a result of which 4,331 enterprises were ordered to make rectifications, 1,654 ones were fined with a total penalty of 26.227 mil. yuan, three cases were filed with 12 persons held in custody, 307 persons were summoned for talks, and 139 individuals were held accountable.

The inspection team held that although it had made new strides in protecting the local environment, the city still failed the people’s expectations and left many acute environmental problems unsolved.

First, the environment efforts had been unsatisfactory. The local environmental protection was more of lip service than actions. Some of the leading officials had poor environmental awareness and overstated the objective causes rather than taking the initiative to tackle the air and water pollution. Some of the local government departments and districts failed to take environmental protection responsibilities. For instance, Ninghe District built a wetland park inside the core zone and buffer zone of a national nature reserve, with the marine department authorizing tourists the access to the core zone and the municipal land resource department turning a blind eye to the unapproved land uses in the nature reserve. Jinghai County and Wuqing District suffered serious pollution from sewage pits. Nearly 1,000 waste recovery workshops in Beichen District accumulated over 200,000 m3 construction wastes and 90,000 t wastewater which had been left untreated until April.

Binhai New District and Wuqing District took convenient measures such as traffic control and more sanitary services to bring down the air quality readings near the automatic monitoring stations. Ninghe District fooled the inspectors by blocking the sewage outlets and building temporary water-retaining walls.

Second, the air environment management had been weak. The mean quarterly PM2.5 reading went up 27.5 percent in Q1, and the coal control was inefficient. The city has added 512 new coal-fired boilers with capacity at 10 steam ton and below per hour, since 2013, which was against the air pollution control action plan. Moreover, the municipal quality inspection committee neglected duty and a total of 261,000 t inferior quality coals returned to the market in 2015 and 2016 after being fined by the authorities.

Moreover, the annual emission of VOCs from three large enterprises in Binhai New District totaled around 28,000 t, including CNPC Dagang Branch, SINOPEC Tianjin Branch, and SINOPEC SABIC Tianjin Petrochemical Company. Tianjin imposed fines on only over 200 vehicles for excessive emission in 2016. The inbounds ships in Tianjin Port emitted huge amount of sulfur dioxide.

Third, the water pollution had been an acute problem. There was a 23 percent growth in the percentage of the surface water monitoring sections that failed the Grade discharge standards last year, based on the 2013 level. Dams and water gates were abundant in the smaller watercourses and channels, which blocked the flow and produced stagnant waters that significantly cut off the discharge in the lower reaches and led to severe pollution.

The construction of sewage infrastructure was behind schedule. More than 61 mil. t untreated sewage water was discharged from the city proper and four districts around it every year.

Yuqiao Reservoir as a major drinking water source to the city, there were still 68 villages with a total population of 69,900, 17 scaled livestock and poultry breeding farms, and 123 breeding households that had not been relocated elsewhere. The uncollected and untreated sewage water had negative impact on the reservoir.

Fourth, some of the acute environmental problems were not resolved. The numerous unlicensed small businesses, the unapproved foundries and chemical enterprises, roasted snack processors, cupola furnaces, upstream factories of the bicycle producers posed major threats to the environment.

Only five out of the 13 planned municipal solid waste treatment plants had been completed and put into operation before 2015. The planned three kitchen residue treatment plants and four feces treatment plants were not built at all. As a result, the environmentally sound treatment rate of solid wastes registered merely 52.3 percent in Tianjin in 2016. Moreover, acid sludge, waste activated carbon, waste acid, and other hazardous wastes were not treated properly.

The inspection team required that Tianjin firmly establish the “four awareness”, shoulder the political responsibility for promoting the ecological progress, properly handle the relation between development and protection, and strive to uplift the urban and industrial development levels; press ahead with the air pollution control; work harder on the top-down design for tackling water pollution, and ensure the safety of drinking water; pay close attention to the environmental treatment and ecological restoration of Qilihai Wetland and other nature reserves and safeguard the ecological security. Moreover, it should work harder to render the Party and government to take equal responsibility for environmental protection and implement the “one position with dual responsibility” system, pursue liability in accordance with laws and regulations, order relevant departments to further probe the identified problems, clarify the liabilities and conduct accountability seriously.

The inspection team emphasized that the municipal Party committee and municipal 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.