Procuratorial organs nationwide prosecuted about 5,900 people for damaging the environment and natural resources from January to March, according to data released by the Supreme People's Procuratorate on Thursday.
Prosecutors also handled about 25,000 related public interest cases, which led to the cleaning up about 262 kilometers of polluted or illegally occupied river channels and about 154.8 hectares of polluted water.
They also urged the closure or rectification of 173 enterprises that illegally discharged waste gas and other air pollutants.
Shen Guojun, head of the SPP's case management office, said that while cracking down on the crime, the prosecutors made offenders bear the cost of ecological and environmental restoration and installed harsher punishments for breaking the law.
In the first quarter of this year, compensation procedures were initiated for environmental damage in 42 cases, those convicted had to pay total compensation of 410 million yuan ($59.3 million), nearly twice as much as last year.
"While taking into consideration regional characteristics, procuratorial organs at all levels have clarified their efforts to ensure the protection of environmental resources and have achieved good results," Shen said.
Taking the Tibet autonomous region as an example, procuratorates there have intensified public interest litigation related to the environment and have carried out special oversight of the protection of drinking water sources, the Jinsha River Basin and wetland biodiversity.
Procuratorates in Tibet have set up 35 contact points in the region's national parks and nature reserves and 306 contact points in villages and towns to raise public awareness about environmental protection and to provide legal advice and procuratorial services, Shen said.
Procuratorial organs have also adopted cutting-edge technologies to carry out tasks such as inspections, appraisals and evidence gathering while handling environmental protection cases so as to improve the quality of their case handling, he said.