BEIJING (Reuters) - Nearly 2,000 Chinese enterprises were found to be in violation of state pollution guidelines following a nationwide inspection campaign covering 25,000 industrial firms, the environment ministry said on Thursday.
With the environment identified as one of the government's top priorities after years of unfettered economic growth, Beijing has promised to enhance its powers to monitor and punish industries accused of ignoring state regulations.
Beijing has struggled to make local governments and industries comply with laws and has long been criticized for relying on national campaigns to bring industrial sectors like coal, steel or rare earth to heel. Illegal behavior often resumes once government inspectors have departed.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) has targeted firms that fail to install pollution control technology or provide fraudulent emissions data to try to avoid punishment.
In a notice posted on its website (www.mep.gov.cn) on Thursday, it said a three-month inspection campaign beginning last November revealed that 1,888 industrial enterprises had failed to comply with pollution rules. A total of 2,185 industrial sites had failed to meet required emission standards.
Another inspection was launched in February in six northern Chinese regions, the ministry said, and found environmental problems at 384 of 563 enterprises.
A March follow-up inspection of 198 offenders showed that 29 had stopped operations, while most of the remainder were rectifying their problems, the ministry said.
Several steel firms, including a unit of Hebei Iron and Steel Group, China's biggest steel producer, had failed for a time to install proper desulfurization equipment, but had rectified the problems.
Past monitoring failures had allowed dozens of enterprises to provide fraudulent data to authorities in order to avoid punishment and obtain clean energy subsidies.
The ministry is trying to improve enforcement by establishing real-time monitoring systems that will give government regulators direct access to pollution data. It said it planned to invest 40 billion yuan ($6.45 billion) over the 2011-2015 period to boost monitoring capacity.
($1 = 6.2005 Chinese Yuan)
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Ron Popeski)