More than 100 officials in Gansu province were held accountable three years ago for illegal coal mining on the northern slope of the Qilian Mountains on the Gansu-Qinghai border. However, nobody has been held accountable yet for illegal coal mining on the southern slope of the mountains in Qinghai province.
Recent media reports say large-scale open-pit coal mines have inflicted irreversible ecological damage on the mountains that are not only the northern rim of the ecologically delicate Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, but also close to the source of the country's mother river, the Yellow River.
The unlicensed mines in this ecologically sensitive area allegedly belong to Qinghai's richest person, surnamed Ma, who has earned more than 10 billion yuan ($1.43 billion) from illegal mining in the past 14 years.
How exactly have his mines escaped environmental and industrial watchdog scrutiny for so long? Had it not been exposed by some media outlets, the nation would have been in the dark about illegal coal mining going on there.
The central authorities attach great importance to the ecological and environmental protection of the Qilian Mountains. President Xi Jinping has issued specific instructions to put an end to illegal mining activities there and promoting environmental protection and restoration.
However, the fact that illegal mining activities are so rampant in Qinghai, despite an ongoing investigation in neighboring Gansu speaks volumes of how weak the accountability system is.
It is high time local departments tasked with environmental and ecological protection work explained their lapses. The central authorities should initiate a probe while turning their accountability system from a province-based to a region-based one.
Actually, the authorities should be using its world-class satellite navigation system, Beidou, to ensure real-time monitoring of regions that are of special environmental and ecological importance to the country.
Source: Xinhua News Agency
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