China enlists public to track polluters online

China enlists public to track polluters online

Authorities say data fraud by polluting firms is a major problem

Smoke and steam rise from a steel plant in Anyang in Henan province of China. (Reuters File Photo)
Smoke and steam rise from a steel plant in Anyang in Henan province of China. (Reuters File Photo)

SHANGHAI: China will set up a new online platform to allow the public to track the emissions of polluters and help authorities prosecute those that break the rules or try to “evade supervision”, the environment ministry says.

A total of 2.36 million companies, industrial facilities and institutions in China are legally obliged to obtain permits to emit pollutants including sulphur dioxide or wastewater.

But China has struggled to collect the information required to make the system work, and has also faced obstruction and data fraud from some polluting firms.

According to the environment ministry, the new information platform will allow authorities and members of the public to monitor real-time emission levels and check historical data in order to determine whether rules are being breached. It is set to go online on March 1.

Liu Zhiquan, a senior official with the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), told a briefing on Friday that authorities would take stronger action against firms that pollute without authorisation and falsify emissions data.

“For illegal behaviour such as the discharge of pollution without permits, there are continuous penalties issued on a daily basis, and they will also be ordered to cut production or shut down,” he said, adding that those found to be “evading supervision” would be detained.

Firms that repeatedly exceed allocations will be subject to more scrutiny and more frequent inspections, as will those that already have a poor “social credit” rating, the ministry said.

Polluting enterprises are obliged to install monitoring equipment and keep at least five years’ worth of data, with fines of 200,000 yuan ($31,000) for those that fail to do so. Fines of 1 million yuan can be imposed on firms that pollute without permission.

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