On Dec. 23, the fourth Central Environmental Protection Inspection Team informed Hainan Province on the environmental inspection it carried out between Aug. 10 and Sept. 10. The meeting was chaired by Governor of the provincial government Shen Xiaoming. Chief Inspector Jia Zhibang delivered the report, and Secretary of the provincial Party committee Liu Cigui made responses. Deputy Chief Inspector Zhao Yingmin, inspectors concerned, the leaderships of the provincial Party committee and provincial government, and the heads of relevant departments attended the meeting.
The inspectors held that the provincial Party committee and provincial government have attached great importance to the building of the ecological civilization and the protection of the environment. In April, the provincial Party committee highlighted the importance to take full advantage of the island’s bestowed ecological environment and its role as a special economic zone and international tourism destination. At the seventh session of the provincial people’s congress, to continue with ecological and environmental governance and optimize eco-environmental quality was put higher on the agenda. Moreover, detailed rules have been rolled out on the accountability of Party and government leading officials for eco-environmental damages. In 2015, the province was the first in the country to pilot the reform to integrate multiple regulations on a provincial scale and made positive progress.
Hainan made tremendous efforts in addressing the environmental problems from disorderly development activities along the coastline, canvassed 1,823 km coastline in 12 coastal cities and counties, and found 805 illegal land uses, development projects, pollution discharge, and deforestation problems, which have been rectified with great determination.
Furthermore, the province has treated the major urban rivers and lakes and improved the local ecological environment. In 2016, Hainan recorded clean or fairly clean days during 99.4 percent of the days across the year, 90.1 percent of the monitoring sections of major rivers and lakes met Grade Ⅰ～Ⅲ standard, and 97.7 percent of the nearshore sea waters met excellent or good standard.
Hainan has attached great importance to the central environmental protection inspection, seriously investigated and punished the environmental cases reported by the people, and made them public. By Oct. 31, 1,792 out of the 2,358 environmental cases handed over by the inspection team had been concluded. Specifically, 1,718 firms had been ordered to make rectifications, 529 firms had been filed a case with the authority and punished with a combined penalty of 38.68 mil. yuan. Nineteen cases had been under investigation. Forty-nine persons had been kept in custody, 392 persons had been summoned for admonitory talks, and 291 persons had been held accountable.
The inspectors noted that in spite of notable progress made in ecological environment, the province still fell short of the requirements of the central authorities, its role as an eco-province and international tourism island, and the public expectations. The main problems are as below.
First, the environmental awareness was inadequate. Some of the local governments and departments are too complacent about their unique natural endowments to be aware of their environmental challenges and deficiencies. Some cities and counties prioritize economic development before environmental protection, and surrendered the government planning to real property development, which harmed the nature reserves, natural coastlines, and vulnerable mountains.
The ecological and environmental performance evaluation was mere formality. For example, in 2014, Wanning was summoned by the provincial eco-environmental protection department for admonitory talks for failing air quality goals, but rated excellent in the evaluation during the province’s eco-province drive. It was the same case for Qionghai a year later. Also, by the time of inspection, no one was ever held accountable for any of the 112 cases on approving coastline development projects beyond authority, despite the provincial government’s clear instructions on accountability.
Some of the departments and local governments either neglected their duties or behaved irresponsibly. The provincial ocean and fishery department neither introduced a marine aquaculture plan nor delineated waters restricted for aquaculture in major rivers, lakes, and nearshore sea waters, which led to chaotic development of aquaculture. Also, it took the liberty to check and accept two sea reclamation projects inside Wenchang Eucheuma muricatum provincial nature reserve for developing recreational centers. The provincial water resources department was inadequate in wastewater infrastructure development and capacity increment. By July it had accomplished the two goals set forth in the 12th Five-Year Plan by only 67 percent and 35 percent respectively.
Sanya municipal government interfered with environmental compliance inspections for multiple times between 2012 and 2015, and connived in the development of a recreational hotel within a 200 m radius of Sanya Coral Reef National Nature Reserve and the coastline.
Second, the natural and ecological landscapes were greatly damaged along the coastline. The coastal cities and counties reclaimed lands for development activities which disrupted the local ecological environment. For example, a reclamation project approved by Danzhou municipal government and ocean department against regulations wreaked havoc on coral reefs and pearl oysters.
Unlawful real property and aquaculture development invaded the coastlines and shelter forests. For example, Wenchang contracted firms to manage the coastal shelter forests on behalf of the municipal government and left the forests abused and damaged by those firms.
The ocean aquaculture was not regulated for a long term. The aquaculture clustered in lagoons and estuaries where the pollutants were reluctant to dilute and even occupied nature reserves and coastal shelter forests.
Third, some nature reserves were poorly protected. Eight out of the 10 national nature reserves in Hainan housed unapproved tourism development projects. A total of 1,333 ha. area of Tongguling National Nature Reserve was designated by Wenchang municipal government as eco-tourism development sites, which included 468 ha. core zone and 171 ha. buffer zone.
A total of 2,932 ha. of the land area of Sanya Coral Reef National Nature Reserve was not under protection for a long term. The coverage of living coral reefs in Dazhou Islet and Xiaodonghai Bay in Luhuitou Section where the human activities are intense had gone down from 42 percent and 18 percent in 2013 to 20 percent and 5 percent in 2016.
Fourth, the environmental infrastructure development was behind schedule. A considerable amount of municipal wastewater treatment projects in Hainan was in slow progress. For example, a project that was proposed on a wastewater treatment plant in Haikou in the 12th provincial five-year plan had not yet been initiated. A wastewater treatment facility for a residential building in Danzhou had not been finished by the time of inspection and caused around 10,000 t municipal wastewater discharged directly into the environment.
Also, municipal solid wastes engulfed some cities and counties and released smelly odor and leachate. Five hundred tons garbage was generated in Qionghai on a daily basis, but the incinerator could process only about 200 t/day.
The inspectors demanded that Hainan thoroughly implement the guiding principles of the 19th National Congress of the CPC and the Xi Jinping thought on building ecological civilization; observe the ecological conservation red lines, curb the damages to the coastal ecosystems by rampant real estate development and unregulated aquaculture; and step up the protection of the ocean and nature reserves as well as the development of environmental infrastructure. Moreover, it should work harder to ask the Party committees and governments 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 Hainan should work out a rectification plan soon based on the Environmental Protection Inspection Program (on trial) and the above results, and report back 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 provincial government for further processing.