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China's perverse incentives plague environmental impact reports

Poor oversight allows companies to 'sell qualifications' to undeserving entities

Jin Haiyan probably was not trying to break any records at her job over the roughly four months starting in late September last year, but she somehow still managed to compose twice as many environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports as the next most productive EIA engineer in China. At least on paper.

News of the feat, which was first brought to light by an environmental watchdog on Feb. 2, raised eyebrows because assessing the environmental impact of real estate developments and other construction projects is not the sort of thing you value by volume. More importantly, compiling more than 1,600 EIA reports and report forms in four months just did not seem possible for one company with a lone licensed EIA engineer.

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