Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Corruption and the Environment

In the economic literature a number of papers have recently emerged examining the relationship between corruption and the environment. We have written a couple of papers in this area as has Per Fredriksson.

More recent work considers the impact of corruption on the environment in China. A reader kindly e-mailed a link to the following news article from China that sheds some light on the impact of local government on regulation enforcement.


Pan Yue: Major Environmental Accidents in Gansu and Hunan Related to Local Administration Omission and Critisized Officers Liable Severely 2006-09-14

Government watchdogs responsible for recent pollution incidents in Gansu and Hunan provinces should be severely punished, a high-ranking state environmental official said Thursday.

The emergencies have been brought under control, and investigations into their causes have concluded, said Pan Yue, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration.

"The incidents were both caused by negligence and malpractice by the local governments and environmental departments - and severely harmed the health of the people," he said, adding that the business enterprises involved were also to blame.

The government organizations ignored people's health in favor of economic growth and protected the enterprises, Pan said.

"The officials responsible should be punished severely," he said.

In Huixian County in northwest China's Gansu Province, lead poisoning resulted in the hospitalization of about 250 children under age 14.

Adults usually recover from mildly elevated lead levels, but children can suffer permanent impairment of their intelligence. People who survive toxic lead levels are likely to suffer some permanent brain damage, authorities said.

Investigations revealed that the Huixian County Non-Ferrous Metal Smeltering Co Ltd was the source of the pollution. The former state-run plant was privatized in 1996 and produced about 5,000 tons of lead a year.

The plant failed to pass an environmental assessment after an upgrade in 2004, and its waste disposal equipment did not meet national standards.

The factory continued to operate secretly after being told to cease production earlier this year.

"The local government and environmental department must be held responsible for this long-term pollution," Pan said.

The other serious pollution incident was caused by two factories in Hunan County's Yueyang County that released wastewater contaminated with high concentrations of an arsenic compound into the Xinqiang River. Tap water supplies to 80,000 people were tainted with the poisonous substance.

The releases could not have happened without the approval of local authorities, Pan said. The plants have since been shut down and their owners detained for questioning.

(China Daily 2006-09-15)

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