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02/01/2006

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Date Posted: 02:35 30/01/2005



SEPA and the Three Gorges Corporation square up

The battle continues between the environmental watchdog and one of the country's 'flagship' enterprises


THE RUMBLE between the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) and the Three Gorges Project Corporation (TGPC) still continues, and the State Council is now intervening in the matter. The highest legislative body in the land is expected to come out with a decision on Monday.

Recently, SEPA released a list of 30 large projects that were in violation of environmental regulations. Three of the projects were being run by the TGPC, but despite the suspension order, work was said to be still ongoing. The company itself said that two of the projects in question hadn't actually been started yet, and the third – a power transmission station – was an integral part of the Three Gorges Project itself. As a result, it did not need the approval of the environmental watchdog.

SEPA is considering taking further legal action to enforce its ruling, but the Legal Evening News thinks otherwise. An official at the company told the newspaper that when it comes to hydropower stations, 'preliminary construction' – including the leveling of ground, the building of roads, and connecting up to electricity and water supplies, does not require SEPA approval. The Legal Evening News suggests that the company has hardened its position on the issue. However, a SEPA insider interviewed by the newspaper said that 'SEPA cannot just walk away because its blow did not land. We still have a series of moves.'

Some have reported that SEPA's hardened stance on errant companies can be attributed to central government efforts to control the overheating economy, suggesting that the environment may in fact be a pretext. While the green credentials of Pan Yue, the vice-head of SEPA, cannot be questioned, it seems more likely that the issue of pollution and overdevelopment has become one of the main battlegrounds for competing factions in the leadership. Wen Jiabao, the Premier, will be paying particular attention to the issue. Hu Jintao's attitude to the 'growth at all costs' policies pursued by his predecessor is, however, less clear.

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