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BEIJING-articleLarge-v3.jpg (Photo : Reuters )

Following an upgraded environmental policy that was announced in a Ministry of Civil Affairs press conference in December 2014, the joint lawsuit of two Chinese environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Friends of Nature and Fujian Green Home Environmental-Friendly Center, will be heard by the Nanping Intermediate People's Court.

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The new policy, which enforces stricter environmental guidelines, came into effect on Jan. 1.

The two organizations received notifications regarding the approval of their case on Jan. 13, after filing their documents during the morning of the same date. The defendants have been accused of polluting in the Zhejiang and Shandong provinces.

In December, ministry official Liao Hong said that, as a result of the Jan. 1 policy upgrade, more than 700 of the 7,000 environmental NGOs on the systems of local and central governments will be endowed with the capacity to launch public-interest lawsuits. Prior to the new legislation, legal action related to breaches of environmental standards were few and far between.

The government-funded All-China Environmental Federation reports that, between 2000 to 2013, around 50 environmental public-interest lawsuits were heard before Chinese courts.

Ma Yong, deputy director at the federation's Environment Law Service Center, further explained to the Global Times: "We filed eight lawsuits in 2013 alone, and none was heard by the courts due to our legal status."

Liao announced that a higher number of NGOs will now be able to take legal action in the interests of environmental protection because the new law provides a more detailed, targeted definition of the types of organizations that are eligible to file such cases.

As of Jan. 1, NGOs can file lawsuits if they fulfill a number of criteria: registration with civil affairs departments at the prefecture level or above; at least five years of activity in environmental public interest activities; and an absence of any illegal conduct.