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Chinese water polluters face bigger fines

335512_drainage_pipe1.jpgCHINA WATCH  We hate water polluters, but stopping them is tricky. It’s becoming a big political issue in China, though, which is perhaps what is spurring authorities to come up with tougher rules. Accordingly, Beijing plans to raise the tax on environmental pollution in a new draft amendment to government’s water pollution prevention and control law.

The draft proposes fines ranging from 20-30% of the direct economic loss caused by polluters, as the current cap on fines for water polluters – about 1m yuan (about $131,000) – doesn’t scare polluters enough.

And to control the total amount of pollutant emissions, authorities will devise a license system for emitters of waste water containing toxic or radioactive materials. Without the license, enterprises will be banned from discharging pollutants into water.

It all sounds very exciting, but how on earth will it work? “Direct economic loss” is a vague and confusing concept, and certainly hard to calculate, as one scholar points out on Chinadaily:

Zhang Jianyu, a visiting scholar at Tsinghua University, said it is not easy to calculate losses from an environmental accident, which may hinder the implementation of the amended law.

In addition, not all environmental pollution results in an accident, which makes meting out a fine difficult. He called for a simple and effective measure, such as working out a cumulative daily penalty system without caps.

And then there’s the whole tricky question of implementation with all of this.

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