Industrial Projects to Require Risk Assessments to Stem Protests

With large-scale protests over environmental concerns increasing in size and frequency, China’s leaders are under pressure to find ways to ease public concerns about industrial pollution. On the sidelines of the 18th Party Congress, the country’s environmental chief announced a new plan that would require assessments of the social impact of new industrial projects. From AP:

The Chinese government will require that future industrial projects include assessments of their risk to social stability, following several large protests around the country over pollution, a top official said Monday.
The government will also increase transparency and public involvement in decisions regarding large projects with potential environmental impact, Minister for Environmental Protection Zhou Shengxian told reporters on the sidelines of a Communist Party congress at which a new generation of leaders will be installed.
Zhou acknowledged the sensitivity of the issue but said it was natural for such incidents to occur as living standards rise. ‘‘I think it is inevitable that when a society is developed to a certain level, certain phenomena will naturally arise, this is regular. For China … we are now in a sensitive period especially in terms of environmental issues,’’ he said. ‘‘At the same time we are beginning to see a phenomenon called ‘not in my backyard.’’’
Pollution has become a major cause of unrest in China as members of the rising middle class become more outspoken against environmentally risky projects near them. The demonstrations are a reminder to the incoming generation of leaders that they face a public increasingly unwilling to accept environmental and health hazards as an inevitable consequence of breakneck, unbridled economic growth.

Protests over environmental pollution have been increasing at an average rate of 29% per year, according to official statistics. Just before the opening of the Party Congress, protests in Ningbo against a

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