Some local authorities in China are resorting to ‘quick fixes’ to comply with strict regulations imposed by the 2014 revised Environmental Protection Law. Such tactics must be stopped: they mask pollution issues that could defeat long-term environmental goals.
For example, to pre-empt scrutiny and quickly improve air-quality rankings in Lanshan, Shandong province, 300 or so restaurants were shut and production at more than 400 wooden-fibreboard factories was stopped. Many of these businesses had pollution-control measures in place (www.mee.gov.cn). In another case, farmers in Shangcai, Henan, were told to harvest 5 hectares of wheat by hand to avoid dust from mechanized harvesting affecting readings at a nearby air-monitoring site (J. Qu Chutian Metropolis Daily 10 June 2019). Air-quality monitoring data have also been manipulated in Xi’an, Shaanxi (D. Liu and S. Wang Int. J. Environ. Sci. Technol. 16, 4963–4966; 2019).
Local leaders’ success should be measured by their progress on long-term environmental improvements. Regional governments should therefore be allowed a reasonable period to address environmental issues. The focus should be on tackling underlying causes of environmental problems, with technical backing from central government, rather than on misguided quick fixes.
Nature 578, 37 (2020)