Booming industrial city Dongguan will set up a special court to handle environmental lawsuits, the first of its kind in south China's Guangdong Province. With the establishment of an environmental court, the city is set to combine “administrative means" with "legal means" to better avoid the old development pattern of "pollute first, control later."
In 2011, Dongguan handled as many as 822 environmental cases and factories paid more than 28 million yuan (around four million USD) in fines. Despite this, many polluters choose to play cat-and-mouse games with the relatively understaffed environmental bureau of the city.
Efforts at regulation no longer work effectively. "There are those enterprises which would rather pay fines up to thousands of yuan than spend money upgrading their drainage system," said Niu Ling, Deputy of the National People's Congress. The environmental court is expected to warn polluters of their legal responsibilities or at least serve as a more powerful deterrent than criticisms from the government.
So far, China has established 61 environmental courts in 16 provinces. Their practical effectiveness is yet to be tested.
Translated and summarized by Tong Jun and Lindsay Butt