Environmental governance tops agenda for new group
Civil Society | Environment
Publicly naming and shaming industrial polluters and scoring county governments for their environmental performance feature in the plans of a new NGO established in May by an internationally renowned Chinese activist.
The Citizens and Environment Research Centre (公众与环境研究中心) is led by Ma Jun (马军) and has affiliated to the Beijing Innovation Research Institute (北京创新研究所), which is itself attached to a private college, Beijing Correspondence University of Logic and Language (北京逻辑与语言函授大学).
Ma, 38, is well known for his 1999 book, published in English as China’s Water Crisis, and has been a leading light in the China Rivers Network, a coalition of groups and individuals who campaigned against the building of hydropower dams along the pristine Nu River in Yunnan Province. He worked on the South China Morning Post from 1993 to 2000 and then spent three years with an American environment consultancy firm, followed by a year as a visiting scholar at Yale University. Two months ago he was ranked by Time magazine as among “100 People Who Shape Our World.”
The Citizens and Environment Centre, says Ma, will aim to promote good environmental governance in China. The group is hoping to develop a national, on-line water pollution database, and plans to deliver reports on related issues to government departments and agencies.
“I hope we can produce more research- and data-based work that can be solid enough to serve as reference material for policy makers and the general public,” he continues in a telephone interview. “We should work as a team with more research capacity.”
Currently the organisation has four full-time staff, and is hoping to recruit others, especially those with an environment science background, to join the team.
A website they are working on, Ma says, will highlight polluting enterprises and, he hopes, work out an index system to score local governments’ efforts on environment protection. Currently they are focusing on major polluters exposed by local governments.
Public pressure, in Ma’s opinion, is an important means to urge Chinese enterprises to realise their social responsibilities. Although there is a general consensus on the need for environment conservation, he believes that persistent and in-depth efforts are still needed.
To this end, he says, the Citizen and Environment Centre will begin to deliver training on specific water pollution knowledge, including various pollution indicators, related laws and regulations and monitoring techniques.
Report by Tina Qian, July 4 2006