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August 1, 2009

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Court 'green light' proves first

A COURT in southwest China has accepted the country's first lawsuit filed by an environmental group against a local government, a member of the group said yesterday.

The All-China Environmental Federation filed the suit on behalf of residents against the local land resources bureau in Qingzhen City, Guizhou Province.

The lawsuit said the bureau sold land to a drink and ice-cream processing plant, where the unfinished site "is a threat to a scenic lake area."

The land resources bureau sold 800 square meters of land to the owner of the plant in 1994, but construction was never finished. The group wants the government to take the land back and remove the construction material.

The acceptance of the suit was a sign of greater public involvement and use of laws to hold the government accountable for environmental problems, experts said.

"If this leads to more NGOs (non-governmental organizations) bringing public interest litigation, I think this is a very important breakthrough," Alex Wang, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a United States environmental group, told The Associated Press.

"It means China is going to open the door to more public involvement in environmental enforcement."

Ma Yong, director of the legal services center at the environment federation, said the group received an acceptance note from the court on Tuesday. The case will open in early September.

Although the project had not been finished, Ma said it had to be stopped because its waste water would be a threat to the environment.

"The case will serve as a warning for government departments and companies that damage the environment, as we're stepping up efforts to play a supervisory role," The Associated Press quoted him as saying.

Ma hopes the case paves the way for more groups to file public-interest lawsuits.

The federation filed a public lawsuit last month against a firm that operates a container port in Jiangsu Province's Wuxi City for failing to control pollution. That case has yet to go to trial.


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