BEIJING (Reuters) - China will take a "zero tolerance" approach to a wide range of environmental violations and has promised stronger action against regional governments that protect polluters or hinder inspections, according to a Cabinet document.
Authorities across China have been ordered to take part in a comprehensive inspection program to be completed by the end of 2015, said the policy document that was released on the official government website late on Wednesday.
The program's findings will be released publicly under a policy of enhanced transparency and accountability, it said, and any regional regulations that hinder enforcement of national environmental legislation must be annulled by June 2015.
The state of China's air, soil and rivers has emerged as one of the ruling Communist Party's biggest challenges, with an increasingly prosperous public unwilling to accept the environmental costs of rapid economic growth.
China declared a "war on pollution" this year and passed long-awaited amendments to its 1989 Environmental Protection Law, giving authorities added powers to monitor, fine and even imprison repeat offenders.
On Wednesday, the cabinet also approved draft amendments to China's air pollution law that include unlimited daily fines if violators do not rectify problems, the China Daily newspaper reported. Polluters currently pay a one-off fine of up to 200,000 yuan ($32,595).
Enforcement remains one of the government's main concerns, with the Ministry of Environmental Protection complaining last month that some regions preferred "form over substance" when it came to implementing new guidelines.
The ministry also criticized regional governments that failed to comply fully with industrial restrictions during this month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing.
(1 US dollar = 6.1360 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Paul Tait)