China sends environmental inspection teams to seven more regions

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has dispatched another seven environmental inspection teams to check how its anti-pollution rules are being implemented throughout the regions, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said late on Thursday.

The teams will visit the capital, Beijing, the financial hub of Shanghai and the manufacturing center of Guangdong, the ministry said. The huge southwestern municipality of Chongqing and the provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu and Hubei are also on the list.

China’s environment ministry was given authority earlier this year to investigate regions and enterprises without prior warning, and it was also empowered to summon any local government or company official to account for their actions.

A previous round of investigations into eight Chinese regions led to more than 3,000 officials being disciplined and 198 million yuan in fines being handed out for environmental violations.

The results of the investigations, published by the ministry last week, revealed that improvements had been made in the treatment of air pollution across the country, but water quality in some regions had become significantly worse.

The investigation also accused companies of expanding steel capacity in violation of the country’s strict overcapacity rules, and of encroaching upon nature reserves and other vulnerable ecological zones declared off-limits for development.

The new round of inspections is expected to be completed before the end of the year, the ministry said.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Richard Pullin