BEIJING, Jul 30 – China’s most influential newspaper on Monday urged authorities to listen to people’s worries about pollution, after fears over a new waste water pipeline sparked weekend riots.
“The public’s awareness of environmental issues and their rights is increasing at a rapid pace,” said an editorial in the People’s Daily – the mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist party.
China should strive to “establish an open and transparent decision-making mechanism, and build a tolerant environment for public opinion”, it said.
Authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Qidong agreed Saturday to cancel plans to build a new water pipeline after thousands of local people took to the streets, overturning cars and ransacking government offices.
They were concerned that the pipeline, from a Japanese-owned paper factory, would pollute a nearby fishing port.
China’s dependence on manufacturing for economic growth has left the country struggling with a legacy of industrial pollution, and the riots were only the latest in a series of environmental protests.
Last year, a large-scale demonstration in the coastal city of Dalian forced the local government to relocate a chemical factory.
The People’s Daily said the growing frustration surrounding pollution from industrial projects provides the country with an opportunity to shift away from low-end manufacturing towards less-polluting industries.
Many of the projects that have been the object of citizen protests had been approved by the local government without sufficient consultation with local residents, it said.
Such high profile protests highlighted the need “to promote interaction between citizens and government” when assessing the environmental impact of proposed industrial projects, the paper added.