Social risk evaluations will be conducted before starting major projects, which is expected to help reduce the number of "mass incidents" (a generic term referring to riots and protests) caused by environmental problems, said Minister of Environmental Protection Zhou Shengxian Monday.
When asked why mass incidents linked to environment-related issues have been rising in recent years, during a press conference at the ongoing Party congress, Zhou admitted that social risk assessment had been ignored in the past.
Zhou revealed that the State Council has clearly regulated that social risk evaluation has to be included in project proposals.
"The ministry will work together with other departments to evaluate a project's social risk, through which I believe emergent mass incidents will be reduced to some extent," said the minister.
Last month, hundreds of residents in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province took to the streets, protesting against the construction of a controversial paraxylene plant that may harm public health and the local environment.
A similar incident took place in Shifang, Sichuan Province in July when locals protested against the construction of a metal refinery.
Zhou said environmental problems are unavoidable when economic and social development reaches a certain point. "China is experiencing great economic and social development, which puts environmental problems into a sensitive period," said Zhou.
According to the minister, the lack of sound laws and mechanisms for social risk evaluation of major projects and the incapability of local governments are also behind the rising number of incidents.
"We should disclose all the information related to environmental assessment, including the promises made by local government officials, to the public for better supervision," said Zhou, noting that more people should be allowed to participate in the decision-making and any assessment should be conducted according to the law.