12/31/2014, 00.00
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In Jiangsu, six companies fined for discharging 25,000 tonnes of toxic waste in rivers

In eastern China, the Jiangsu Provincial Higher People's Court rejected appeal by companies, which now have 30 days to pay US$ 26 million in fines. The mainland's environmental situation is getting worse with 70 per cent of rivers and lakes polluted, this according to government data.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - A high court in China's eastern Jiangsu province fined six companies 160 million yuan (US$ 26 million) for polluting local rivers.

The Xinhua news agency said the penalty was the highest ever in China as a result of public interest litigation against polluters.

The companies were initially found guilty in August of discharging 25,000 tonnes of chemical waste into two Taizhou rivers.

In the original sentence, Taizhou Intermediate People's handed down jail sentences against 14 people involved in discharging the chemical waste. However, the companies appealed to a higher court against the fines.

Yesterday, the Jiangsu Provincial Higher People's Court upheld the lower court decision and ordered the companies to pay the fines to an environmental protection fund within the next 30 days.

This comes at a time when the widespread environmental damage caused by China's rapid economic growth has led to growing international and local pressure on Chinese authorities to adopt "green" policies and clean up its environment. In fact, the government itself has acknowledged that around 70 per cent of China's lakes and rivers are polluted.

According to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), this situation stems from the lack of genuine respect for the rule of law.

For the US-based human rights group, "Victims who wish to pursue justice have two options: appeal to higher-level government authorities or bring lawsuits in court. Both avenues are clearly ineffective."

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