Central Government to Require Public Hearings on Environmental Impact of Major Construction Projects

November 22, 2004

According to an article in the 21st Century Business Herald, the Chinese environmental bureau has indicated that public hearings will be required for major public construction projects. These include all construction projects undertaken with State Council funds, approved by the State Development Planning Commission, and involving investments of over 200 million yuan.

This move likely represents an effort to defuse some of the public anger regarding heavily contested public works projects, in particular hydroelectric dams under construction in southwest China. Public opposition and citizen protests center on the environmental impact and land seizures involved in many of these projects, including ones in both Lijiang (more info, 10/20) and Nujiang in Yunnan province and Hanyuan, in Sichuan province (more info, 11/9).

The precise utility of these hearings is questionable. Environmental officials openly admit that the hearings may not be able to affect the final decision of higher level officials. In the case of the Nujiang dams, the project appears to already have been approved by the State Council.