China has appointed Chen Jining, the president of Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, party chief of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Reuters reported, citing an announcement on the ministry’s website.
Chen, 51, an environmental specialist and a member of the National Environmental Advisory Commission with no previous government experience, replaces controversial environment minister Zhou Shengxian.
Zhou’s decade as China’s top environment official has coincided with the massive degradation of the environment, with surging industrial and energy output putting huge pressure on air, rivers and soil, the report said.
Chinese media have criticised Zhou, 65, for not curbing industrial polluters or taking responsibility for scandals ranging from rice contamination to chemical spills in drinking water and thousands of dead pigs found in a Shanghai river.
Smog levels in China’s cities have gone beyond the limits of official measurement scales on several occasions in recent years.
Independent studies have found China faces major health problems from air pollution, with more than one million people dying prematurely each year and life expectancy in some places dropping by as much as 5.5 years.
Zhou has failed to deliver on his frequent pledge to lead a war against environmental degradation.
“It is a disgraceful lifestyle to drive a BMW but have only dirty water to drink,” he told the China Daily in 2009.
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