While in Suzhou, I had the opportunity to meet with Liu Wenbao, the Vice Director of the city’s Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB). Mr. Liu is pictured above showing me the region of the now infamous Lake Tai, which in 2007 suffered a large algal bloom that then threatened residents’ water supply. Most of the interviews I’ve been conducting on this trip have been with provincial-level EPBs, so I was thrilled when Mr. Liu responded to my interview request right away to give me a different perspective. Suzhou, a major city in one of China’s southeastern Jiangsu province, is one of the bright spots for environmental regulation that I’ve seen in China so far. Part of the reason for Suzhou’s tight regulatory control over its companies’ pollution is no doubt due to international publicity of the Lake Tai incident. But it’s also in part due an attitude Mr. Liu says Suzhou’s government and EPB holds toward its companies that’s different than that of the U.S. In Suzhou, companies are guilty until proven innocent, and Mr. Liu says that no matter what kind of shape a company’s pollution report is in, they will – with unshakeable determination (“雷打不动,” leida budong, literally, despite thunder and lightning) – conduct their own inspection and regulation of a company. He was also proud of the fact that when a US EPA official came to visit from Nanjing and saw a smokestack as came into Suzhou, she was shocked that they were able to pinpoint the exact steel company and location of the smokestack using their environmental regulatory and monitoring system (a post on this system coming up next). She proclaimed that Suzhou has the “best environmental monitoring in the world.”
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