China launched the final round of high-level environmental inspections in eight provinces on Monday, ensuring all provincial regions receive a thorough one-month review of the implementation of their pollution-control measures.
The first inspection team started work on Monday and other inspections will begin at staggered times by Aug 15 in the provinces of Jilin, Zhejiang, Shandong, Hainan, Sichuan and Qinghai, and the Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said.
Sichuan, home to many industrial regions along the Yangtze River, was the first to receive inspectors on Monday afternoon, the ministry said.
The central government inspectors will dig out problems in the review, release information to the public timely, improve efficiency and make the high-level inspection authoritative and independent, said Li Ganjie, the environmental protection minister and head of the leading group in charge of the inspections.
The central government has conducted four rounds of inspection since January 2016, including a pilot in Hebei province. The plan was to inspect all 31 provincial regions by the end of this year.
The inspectors were given authority to summon the top provincial leaders and investigate the regions and companies without prior warning and to hold any government official accountable for poor performance in environmental protection, according to the stipulations of regulatory inspection, released by the State Council.
The inspection has been considered a strong tool to supervise the provincial governments and keep companies from polluting, the ministry said.
Based on inspection results released by the ministry, severe problems were uncovered, including weak leadership, insufficient implementation of rules and even protection of companies by local governments. As a result of the inspections, local governments were motivated to rectify the problems.
In November, over 3,400 officials were held accountable in the first round of inspections of eight provincial regions. In April, over 3,100 officials were punished in the second, which covered Beijing, Shanghai and five provinces.