Sixteen people have been detained on suspicion of destroying environmental resources in Qilian Mountains National Natural Reserve in Gansu province, the Supreme People"s Procuratorate said on Monday.
The 16 suspects, who were involved in eight environmental pollution cases in the reserve, were detained between January and October, according to the SPP.
"We will severely punish those who pollute the environment, or officials who neglect their duties by covering up such cases, in order to create a deterrent," the SPP said on Monday.
Qilian Mountains is an important ecological security barrier in China"s western area and an important source of water for the Yellow River. It is a priority area for biodiversity conservation in China. Qilian Mountains National Natural Reserve was set up in Gansu in 1988 to protect mineral and water resources.
In recent years, mining and other forms of environmental exploitation inside the reserve have destroyed the vegetation cover and eroded the soil.
Moreover, 42 hydropower stations were operating illegally in the reserve, and their excessive exploitation of water resources dried up some rivers, according to a report from China Central Television.
The SPP has sent a special inspection team to Gansu to investigate and supervise the pollution cases.
It said Gansu"s prosecuting authority issued a notice to severely punish polluting activities and sent investigative teams to local ecological reserves.
According to Gansu prosecutors, from January to October they suggested administrative departments transfer 30 suspects to judicial departments for damaging the environment in the reserve, while supervising the public security departments file cases against 15 suspects.
They also transferred 13 criminal cases involving duty-related crimes to the anti-corruption and bribery departments under the prosecuting department.
But problems existed during the inspection, the SPP said. Prosecuting departments in Gansu lacked powerful enough supervision over the local government and polluting enterprises, and most of the evidence they gathered were administrative rather than criminal.
According to the SPP, it will direct Gansu prosecutors to step up supervision of public security departments in their filing of cases.
Moreover, it will severely punish corrupt officials who abuse power or neglect their duties to facilitate crimes, and will expose typical pollution cases to raise public awareness of environmental protection.