Pollution lawsuit rejected by court

By ZHENG JINRAN (China Daily)      Updated : 2015-08-24

An environmental group on Sunday vowed to appeal to a higher court after its lawsuit against eight chemical plants over pollution in the Tengger Desert was rejected.

The Intermediate People's Court of Zhongwei, in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, declined on Friday to accept the organization's lawsuit, said Wang Wenyong, lawyer for the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation.

In declining the case, the court said the group was not a qualified plaintiff because its services did not include public interest litigation on environmental protection.

Wang said the group should qualify under the country's environmental protection law, which stipulates that social organizations whose target and major services are to protect the public interest and environment can file public interest litigation.

Biodiversity and green development, the group's key interests, should also be considered environmental protection, Wang said.

Additionally, the organization has filed another lawsuit against two companies that polluted over 1,600 square kilometers of Bohai Sea in 2011, and it was accepted by Qingdao Maritime Court of Shandong province in July.

"We will appeal to a higher court, the highest court in Ningxia," Wang said.

Several companies have been accused of illegally discharging untreated sewage into the Tengger Desert, the fourth-largest in China.

Among those was Mingsheng Variegate Co in Zhongwei, which was fined 5 million yuan ($782,000) in May. Responsible managers were sentenced to more than a year in prison.

The fine is not enough to deter the polluters, since they can earn more from the illegal discharge, so a lawsuit is needed to increase their costs and make it too expensive to destroy the environment, the organization said.

Wang Canfa, director of an environmental research body with the China University of Political Science and Law, said the court's rejection of the case is a surprise, and shows some local courts have limited understanding of environmental protection.