The environmental history of China during the 1990s and early 2000s has not been a picture of responsible industry. While in the books China¡¯s environmental laws are strong, in practice they are frequently ignored. Every year there are cases of human-caused ecological disasters.
In the far southeastern part of Sichuan province, for example, mining more magnesium has taken its toll on local communities and the environment. Runoff from the regions hundreds of mining projects has contaminated the water with heavy metals and other mining toxins, killing crops and putting the health of local people at risk.

Thanks to: china-environmental-news.blogspot.com for their article on Sichuan's situation.

In another example from September 2008, Yangzonghai Lake in neighboring Yunnan province was found to contain high levels of arsenic in the water. Several companies bordering the lake were found to be responsible, and were fined accordingly. Despite such measures, the continuing occurrence of such cases is an obvious sign that noncompliance is the primary issue in rural environmental protection.
In order to improve rates of compliance, prevent ecological disasters, and protect people¡¯s health, Yuxi, a city in Yunnan, has created a specialized law enforcement group tasked with tackling environmental law enforcement in Yunnan province. For Yunnan, China¡¯s most biologically and geographically diverse province, the creation of the task group is an investment in the province¡¯s natural resources.

Thanks to: www.greenlaw.org.cn for linking to environmental news.

However, in the past such local law enforcement agencies have had similar responsibilities and nonetheless failed to enforce environmental laws. Often such local agencies must have the approval of local officials to carry out investigations, and officials in the past have been more than willing to ignore environmental concerns in favor of economic growth and local favoritism. The test will be to see whether this new agency is given a new degree of independence to carry out its charge.
If the issues of favoritism, bribery, and other forms of corruption do not allow the agency to be effective, a national enforcement body with complete independence may be the only real solution.

By Bryan G. Davis

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