[Parallel Session on Management System]

Environmental Legal System and Urban Environmental Protection (The Example of Shenyang)

by Song Diantang, Environmental Protection Bureau Shenyang, P.R. China

The Government of People's Republic of China attaches very much importance to environmental protection in its growing economy. Since early 1980's, China's government has set environmental protection as a basic national policy, and has conducted many issues for it continually. As a result, the environmental quality has not dropped down during the rapid economic development. After the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Brazil, Chinese Government has adopted a series of effective items to enforce environmental protection. A very important item is the approval of The Agenda 21 of China, which shows China would implement the over-all sustainable development strategy and speed the construction of environmental legal system. In the Ninth Chinese Five-Year's Plan and the Long Term Scope of 2010, environmental protection is put onto the unprecedented high strategic level.

However, China is facing the double problems of developing economy and protecting environment. There is still contradictory between environment and development while the economy is rapidly growing. The environmental pollution centered in urban area is still dropping worsen and is expending to rural area. The range of ecological environmental worsen is also enlarging. Being a developing country, China does not have enough finance capacity to treat pollution at present. According to our experience of environmental protection over the past years, we found that some environmental problems could be solved without any money or just with a little amount of money. These problems are often caused by improper management. The best way to solve them is to strengthen the construction of environmental legal system and environmental administration, and strictly monitor and manage environment in law.

Shenyang is a heavy industrial basis of China, ten thousands of industrial enterprises make a big consumption of materials and energy every year, which cause a serious environmental pollution in Shenyang. Shenyang Municipal Government (SMG) always pays much attention to the construction of environmental legal system and environmental administration in these years. Fourteen local environmental laws and administration regulations has gone affective according to national laws and the situation of Shenyang. As the department of unified supervising and managing environment in Shenyang, Shenyang Environmental Protection Bureau (SEPB) also strengthens its capacity of enforcing environmental laws continually. The main duties of SEPB are:

  1. Design of local environmental protection regulation and environmental standard.
  2. Cooperating with related other departments, to design the environmental protection plan and yearly schedule, and supervise its implementation.
  3. Supervision of the implementation of the nation's environmental protection laws and policies among local departments and enterprises. To enforce administrative punishment and other methods to solve the environmental problems according to the law.
  4. Monitoring the city's environment. Collecting and publishing the information of the city's environmental situation and developing tendency.
  5. Organization of the environmental science study and education.

The structure of SEPB is as following.


Structure 15KB

The Environmental Supervision Team is a law enforcement department, which is in charge of the field inspection and conducting the over-city environmental illegal activities. At present, there are more than 300 law-enforcement staffs in Shenyang. They are in the uniform with special symbol of law-enforcement. The supervision mobiles also have special marks. The Environmental Supervision Team sets an open phone for public to report the environmental cases. The mobiles are waiting for supervision activities all day and night. Additionally, in order to get learn environmental illegal activities in time, SEPB sets a supervision net by inviting more than 300 environmental Supervisors from communities and citizens. As the requirements of enforcing environmental laws, improving the administrative capacity in law, and conducting the illegal activities fairly and objectively, SEPB has worked out a close set of law-enforcement procedure. The main items are as below:

Pre-Punishment Notice Warning the enterprise and teach it to correct the unlawful practice in limited time.
Administration Resolution Administratively punish the enterprise if it does not correct the unlawful practice.
Application for Enforcing Punishment Apply the local People's Court to enforce the punishment on the enterprise refusing the administrative punishment.

According to the items of "The Environmental Protection Law of The People's Republic of China," the litigant can appeal against during 15 days after receiving the court decision. If the litigant neither lodges an appeal nor execute the decision in the limited time, SEPB could apply the local court to enforce the decision. In order to support environmental law enforcement and to get rid of environmental illegal activities, the Middle People's Court of Shenyang established an Environmental Protection Court (not-standing body) in SEPB in Jan., 1996. The Environmental Protection Court accepts and hears mainly the enforcing cases applied by environmental protection departments. Because of the local court's active assistance and participation, the illegal activities were conducted in time. The seriousness of environmental protection laws and the authority of environmental protection administrative departments were improved.

The Environmental Protection Court has given many efforts to reduce administrative intervention and local protections. In the past, after unlawful enterprises were imposed fines or were doubled pollution discharge fee or were stopped operation by environmental protection departments, they always mediated, pleaded for mercy or put pressure on environmental protection departments through all kinds of relations, asking for relieving the punishments. Some unlawful enterprises found many reasons to delay the administrative punishment. Departments on district (country) level sometimes are unwilling to give assistance based on local benefits when the department on city level dealt with the unlawful enterprises. Lots of bad results were left such as: the increasing of illegal activities and citizens' claims for environmental cases. These abnormal tendencies were stopped quickly after the establishing of the Environmental Protection Court. By now, the Court has enforced 213 cases, has applied to enforce levying 10.2 million yuan RMB of pollution discharge fee and imposed fines. The unlawful cases were much less than ever before.

China is transferring from planned economy to the market one. In market economy, enterprises always put the economic benefits on the highest position and often ignore environmental protection meanwhile. To clear up the illegal activities of polluting environment, it needs a long period of time through economic development, complement of environmental legal system and strengthening of the environmental law enforcement capacity. Shenyang has been chosen as a pilot of Sustainable Cities Programme by UNEP and UNCHS (Habitat). Shenyang has set the city development goal of "High Science and Technology, Large Production Scale, Large Goods Circulation, Internationalization, Modernization." The future environmental protection issues would be much more than ever. Developing on sustainable way in law would be a long-term goal of Shenyang.

Fujisawa/Saarbrücken/Bangkok/Gulu Municipalities/Luisville and Jefferson County/Ratnapura/Jerusalem/Portland/La Ceiba/Shenyang