China holds officials to account for sloppy environmental efforts

A policeman, wearing a mask to protect from severe pollution, secures the area near the Great Hall of the People before the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing, China, March 3, 2016. Picture taken March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has called more than 1,500 government officials to account for recent major environmental problems across three provinces, after recent inspections found insufficient implementation of pollution control efforts, the environmental ministry said.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection said late on Tuesday that it had received feedback from inspection teams dispatched to Heilongjiang, Henan and Jiangsu provinces, the first group among eight regions the government plans to check.

The country has stepped up its efforts to crackdown on pollution as public anger grows over damaging smog levels and environmental degradation and the ministry has in the past year punished numerous factories and polluting industries.

In a separate notice also issued on Tuesday, the ministry said air quality in the country’s smog-hit northern regions worsened in October. [nL4N1DG00T]

Central Henan province, which faces serious air pollution and an increase of pollutants in some rivers, has held 1,231 people accountable, while eastern Jiangsu ordered more than 2,700 firms to improve pollution control after finding issues such as poor industrial waste treatment at some chemical plants.

Slack pollution control monitoring and illegal construction in nature reserves was also found in the northeastern Heilongjiang province, the ministry said.

Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Michael Perry