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Citizen complaints as environmental indicators : evidence from China

Authors
Disciplines
  • Communication
  • Ecology
  • Education
  • Geography

Abstract

The complaints process in China provides useful information and helps encourage community participation in environmental policy. But it also directs a big share of inspection resources to areas where people tend to complain. After analyzing provincial data for 1987-93, the authors find the subsequent allocation of resources biased, in terms of social welfare. The incidence of complaints reflects potential abatement benefits and the intensity of exposure to highly visible pollutants. However, citizen complaints seem not to be affected by harmful pollutants that are less visible. Basic education seems to have a strong independent effect on propensity to complain. Relying on complaints alone would lead to inappropiately low allocation of inspection resources to less-educated, relatively silent regions. To compensate for incomplete information upon which regulators must rely, the authors say that agencies should invest in public environmental education targeted especially to poorly-educated communities and consider outreach to encourage better communication. The authors also recommend giving priority to technical risk assessments in determining resource allocation.

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