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China considers draft law to curb water pollution

Reporter: Hou Na 丨 CCTV.com

12-24-2016 03:53 BJT

China's top legislature -- the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, or NPC -- opened its bimonthly session in Beijing this week. The seven-day session will focus on a number of draft laws and amendments including a draft law to better prevent water pollution by strengthening government responsibility and supervision. 

The push to strengthen groundwater protection comes after a number of environmental incidents in China.

In April 2014, in northwest China's Lanzhou City, benzene leaked from a pipeline of a petrochemical company, The accident caused benzene levels in the city's tap water to reach 10 times higher than national standards.

The draft amendment to the Water Pollution Prevention Law,  strengthens monitoring and government responsibility, mandates that local governments should set time limits and make efforts to improve water quality, and authorizes officials to issue tougher pollutant control requirements for water quality.

The draft strengthens protection measures, stating that emergency response measures and back-up water sources should be set up in cities with single water sources,

It also would ensure that the quality of drinking water is closely monitored, with relevant information made public.

"The current Water Pollution Prevention Law, which was enacted more than thirty years ago, lacks terms that protect the ecological system and public health. I think it's urgent to revise the law," said Du Liming, member of NPC Standing Committee.

According to the draft, chemical producers, industrial and mining zones, tailing ponds, dangerous chemical disposal sites and landfills shall take efforts to prevent leakage and dig wells to monitor groundwater quality.

The draft imposes tougher punishments, and doubles fines for offenses.

But lawmakers say that's not enough.

"I think the fines for violators is too low, I suggest we increase the levels of punishment," said Yan Yixin, member of NPC Standing Committee.

"I suggest the water pollution prevention law should be made coherent with the new environment protection tax law," said member Liu Depei.

Lawmakers also reviewed a draft environment protection tax law to upgrade the current pollutant discharge fee system into a law that will tax air and water pollutants, solid waste and industrial noise at different rates.

China established its pollutant discharge fee system in 1979. In 2015, it collected 17.3 billion yuan (about 2.5 billion US dollars) from some 280,000 businesses.

However, some local governments exploit the system's loopholes and secretly exempt fees for enterprises that are big contributors to fiscal revenues.

The new draft law, is targeted at better equipping the country to fight pollution in the coming years.

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