Research by two Chinese non-governmental organizations has revealed that a number of environmental protection departments are working with shady third parties to conducting environmental impact assessments in order to make a profit.
The two NGOs, the Chongqing Liangjiang Voluntary Development Service Center and Guangzhou GreenNet Environmental Development Service Center, looked at the websites of 31 provincial environmental protection departments. They found that 14 of these websites disclosed their department’s finances, with just under a third of these records showing signs that the department had been using their power to profit.
In recent years, environmental departments have begun to delegate work to voluntary organizations to help them deal with environmental problems. A large number of these organizations have used this power as a way to make money. Official media even have a name for them: “Red Top Intermediaries”
These Red Top Intermediaries are all registered as NGOs by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs and many of them claim to be non-profit organizations. According to an article in The People’s Daily, Red Top Intermediaries move between the government and the market. On one hand, they make a profit as a player in the free market, while on the other they execute administrative power.
In March the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) reported that it had punished 63 environmental impact assessment agencies and 22 assessment engineers for violating laws and regulations.
In the same month, the MEP announced that it would delegate more environmental impact assessments to lower level organizations.
“Delegating power does not mean shirking responsibilities,” Cheng Lifeng, head of the MEP’s Department of Environmental Impact Assessment, told Xinhua News Agency. Cheng emphasized that the ministry would intensify its supervision of local environmental protection departments and that information about each assessment would be made public.