The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) announced on Friday it had approved 153 projects around the country involving investments of around 470 billion yuan. 31 of the approved projects involved infrastructure development, “such as transportation and water conservation.” Most of the projects were reported to be “part of the 4-trillion-yuan economic stimulus package announced by the government in November.” Of course, these could not have been newly designed projects (there is no way they could have been developed so quickly), but simply projects whose construction schedule was advanced to aid the economy.
Eleven projects (or 7% of the total) were rejected, “mostly coal-fired power plants or resource-intensive coal chemical plants.” This rejection rate is significantly lower than the 24% “rejected or postponed” rate reported for the first eight months of 2008, perhaps due to the new approval expediting measures.
As noted by China Daily
Since the central government published its fiscal stimulus plan, the MEP has sped up the review process of environmental assessment reports on proposed projects.
“MEP has opened a ‘green passage’ to projects that are deemed to have the effect of boosting domestic demand,” the MEP spokesperson said.
“But we have also set up a ‘fire wall’ to block projects that fall short on environmental standards,” the spokesman said.
Do not be mislead by the use of the word “green” to describe this passage. “Green” is being used here as it is used in customs clearance. The “green passage” means “nothing to declare” and speeds you on your way. Thus “projects that are deemed to have the effect of boosting domestic demand” are being whisked through the EIA review process (subject only to the “fire wall,” whatever that is). I don’t have a good feeling about this one.