MAC: Mines and Communities

Chinese environmental NGOs win court case over mining expansion

Published by MAC on 2015-11-03
Source: Xinhua, Jurist

China NGOs win landmark environmental lawsuit


29 October 2015

FUZHOU - Two NGOs won an environmental damage lawsuit Thursday against a quarry in the east China's Fujian province. It is believed to be a landmark case made possible by China's strengthened environmental law.

The case, filed by Friends of Nature and Fujian Green Home, opened in Nanping Municipal Intermediate People's Court of Fujian months ago, and the verdict was delivered Thursday.

The two NGOs have accused four people of severely damaging vegetation on a hillside in Nanping City.

The court ordered the defendants to clear work sheds, mechanical equipment and waste at a quarry within five months, and to restore vegetation they had damaged by planting trees over the next three years.

They were also asked to pay 1.27 million yuan (200,000 U.S. dollars) in compensation.

According to the court, defendant Li Mingshuo transferred possession of his quarry without approval of authorities to the other three defendants in July 2008, who expanded the mining area, illegally occupied forest and damaged local vegetation.

The total area of vegetation damaged by the four defendants, including land damaged by Li before the transfer, reached around 28.33 mu (1.9 hectares), the court said.

"This is the first case filed by NGOs over non-pollution-related environmental damage since the amended Environmental Protection Law took effect on January 1, 2015. It offers a good example for future cases," said Lin Dongbo, deputy head of the court.

The law allows any NGO of sufficient size specializing in environmental protection for more than five years to file civil cases over pollution and environmental damage for the good of the general public.

China only has about 80,000 officials to enforce environmental laws, and they must oversee 1.5 million companies, not including unregistered ones. With the new law, about 700 organizations can join the fight.

China court finds in favor of NGOs under new environmental law

by Ashley Hogan

29 October 2015

The Nanping Municipal Intermediate People's Court of Fujian found in favor of two environmental groups on Thursday under a new environmental law. The court ordered defendants to restore destroyed vegetation and pay compensation for the damage that resulted from of an illegal mining expansion. This was the first environmental protection case decided since the Environmental Protection Law took effect on January 1. The law allows NGOs to directly sue polluters in the public interest, and the victory by Friends of Nature and Fujian Green Home suggests that other environmental groups will have more power to combat pollution under the new law.

According to many experts, climate change as a result of global greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most pressing and controversial environmental issues facing the international community today. China has long come under international criticism for lax environmental laws and enforcement, but has taken more proactive steps in recent years. In July China's Qingdao Maritime Court ruled that a lawsuit against ConocoPhillips China and China National Offshore Oil relating to a 2011 oil spill could proceed under the new environmental law. Also in July China set a 60 percent per capita carbon dioxide emissions reduction goal for 2030. The announcement followed a November agreement with the US to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

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