The punishments handed down by the Ministry of Environmental Protection in several cases involving pollution and unlawful practices show the government's determination, but they are not strong enough to deter further violations, environmental advocates said.
The ministry said on Thursday that a special inspection of the groundwater pollution in six provinces of North China resulted in fines for 88 companies out of the nearly 26,000 that were examined during the 40-day campaign. But the average fine was less than 70,000 yuan ($11,400).
"I support the government disclosing more information about such unlawful behavior by big companies, because they usually emit large quantity of pollutants, posing more threat to the environment," said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, an environmental NGO.
He said the weak fines will not deter companies from polluting the environment, but information disclosure may cause public concern, which will put much greater pressure on them.
"Seen from the ministry's recent measures, we can see that more environmental information is being disclosed by the government. And it is also responding more actively to the hot environmental issues exposed online," said Ma.