September 3, 2019 / 9:07 AM / 12 days ago

China seeks people's feedback on blanket cuts in pollution war

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s environment watchdog has asked people to call out local officials carrying out blanket curbs in a “one size fits all” way to support the nation’s fight against pollution, as these have led to hindering large parts of the industrial economy.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) said in a statement on Monday that it welcomes reports from public on local authorities conducting blanket cuts, as there have been instances of officials indiscriminately forcing all companies to shut down or cut production, to deal with environmental issues.

These reports would be collected over a period of three months starting September, it said. The MEE campaign will cover the period before the 70th anniversary celebrations of the country’s founding day on Oct.1 and the beginning of the winter season when northern China turns on its heating system.

The public at large has grown increasingly discontent on blanket cuts as it disrupted large parts of the industrial economy, especially amid the slowing economic growth and escalating trade tension with the United States.

Beijing has promised to make anti-pollution norms more nuanced by adapting different measures based on emission levels at each company, and ditched overall output restriction on heavy industry for the coming winter.

Cui Shuhong, director of the MEE’s environmental impact assessment department, told Reuters on Tuesday that normal life and business in some ecologically-protected areas should not be affected.

“It’s wrong to turn the ‘ecological red line’ region into a forbidden zone...The aim of the ‘red line’ scheme is to help human and nature to coexist harmoniously,” Cui said.

China’s top pig-farming hub Sichuan province plans to abolish some restrictions on land use to allow pig raising on some grades of protected forest land, to stabilise supply after an epidemic of African swine fever reduced herds.

However, Cui said that the MEE will not relent on ecosystem protection and keep land off limit to development.

Energy experts are urging the environment regulators to ease restrictions on oil and gas drilling at environment-sensitive regions as China strives to boost domestic energy production and to ensure its energy safety.

“For national strategic resources, it’s allowed (to do exploration and development) only if acquired approvals from relevant authorities,” said Cui.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and David Stanway; Editing by Rashmi Aich

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