The Ningbo PX project incident that occurred in October drew the attention of the public again to environmental problems. At this juncture, when comments are being sought nationwide on the bill to amend the Environmental Protection Law, this column will explore three topics of hot debate among the public.
Public interest litigation
From murky to clear. The original Civil Procedure Law restricted litigants to “immediately interested parties”, resulting in a number of environmental pollution incidents in which numerous people were harmed without, however, any obvious immediately interested parties, making it impossible to resolve the problem through civil litigation. For example, in the 2005 Songhua River pollution incident, although a scholar attempted to institute an environmental public interest action, the local court refused to place the case on the docket, on the grounds of lack of standing.
This year, the amended Civil Procedure Law finally adds a provision reading: “With respect to acts that harm the public interest, such as pollution of the environment, infringement of the lawful rights and interests of the mass of consumers, etc., the authorities specified in law and relevant organisations may institute legal actions in People’s Courts.”
Wang Jihong is deputy director of the Environment, Resource and Energy Law Committee, All China Lawyers Association; Shi Jie is deputy director of Environmental Law Committee, Beijing Lawyers Association
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