On January 1st 2015, the NGOs Friends of Nature and Fujian Green Home received a notice from the Nanping city intermediate people’s court stating it had accepted to file their lawsuit. This is the first occurence of a public interest lawsuit being filed since the new “Environment Protection Law” has been enforced.
In this case, the two NGOs sued four individuals for having carried out mining activities in the Hulu mountain from 2008 to 2010 and then again from June 2011, despite the repeated demands from the Natural Resources Protection Bureau to stop their activity, therefore severely harming the area’s vegetation.
Zhang Boju, executive director of Friends of Nature, explains that the goal of this lawsuit is to have the defendants take measure to repair the damages their activities have done to the environment.
According to Gu Xijin, associate professor at the Tsinghua NGO Research Center, what makes public interest lawsuits under the “Environment Protection Law” different from other civil law cases is that NGOs cannot seek to gain economical reward through the lawsuit. They can only ask for action being taken for the sake of environment protection.
According to the deputy-director of the Law Research Center of the All-China Environment Protection Federation, Ma Yong, the new model of public interest lawsuit still faces many challenges such as the risk of losing lawsuits, the duration of the decisions handed down and their replicability. Furthermore, the cost both economical and in terms of human resources of such lawsuits are high, and only a few NGOs have the capacity to bear them. It is also to try to overcome these obstacles that Friends of Nature has established a “Public Interest Lawsuit Support Fund” which goal is to support at least five public interest lawsuits in the coming months.