The Wuhan section of the Yangtze River. (File photo: Xinhua)
Prosecutors from various provinces along the Yangtze River are set to improve coordination in filing public-interest lawsuits against perpetrators of environmental crimes.
Prosecutors gathered at a forum in Shanghai last week to discuss how to share information in cases that cross jurisdictions, as well as how to conduct joint operations and exchanges, solve problems in forensics and establish a fund for public-interest litigation.
Organized by the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the two-day forum, which ended on Friday, included procurators and legislators from the Yangtze River Economic Belt. They discussed how to handle environmental crimes to ensure the healthy development of the economic belt.
Lawsuits have been initiated by local procuratorates against polluters in cases involving such things as the discharge of industrial wastewater, operation of quarries along the river, fishing and the dumping of toxic chemicals and solid waste.
The Yangtze River Economic Belt involves nine provinces and two municipalities upstream from Shanghai. It covers more than 2 million square kilometers and accounts for more than 40 percent of China's population and GDP. The region has been hailed as a new growth engine for the country since it was elevated to a national strategy in 2014.
According to Qiu Xueqiang, deputy procurator-general, prosecutors' work regarding the economic belt should focus on how to protect the river's ecology and its high-quality economic development.
"We should raise our punitive strength in litigation to create the deterrence needed to protect the Yangtze River," Qiu said at the forum, a follow-up to a symposium in Wuhan, Hubei province, in July.
From July to November, prosecutors along China's longest river filed 15,363 administrative lawsuits against government agencies and 914 civil lawsuits against companies or individuals over environmental violations, according to information released at the forum.
However, cross-provincial litigations, especially public-interest ones on behalf of the general public, in which prosecutors sue offenders for causing environmental damage, are few because of administrative blocks and restrictions.
Zhao Wanping, vice-president of Anhui Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said that prosecutors should also pay attention to environmental restoration.
"Penalizing polluters is rather quick and easy, but restoring the damage is difficult and needs time," he said. "I hope prosecutors will also emphasize the enforcement of environmental restoration."
Xu Juehui, managing director of Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal Development Co, suggested that coordination in public-interest litigation be expanded across the legal system into the administrative system.
Conflicts of interest are involved across different governmental departments in cases of river transportation, which is one of the pollution sources, she said.
"If prosecutors have more interaction with the local governments, better results in environmental protection can be achieved."