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BEIJING, July 15, Xinhua -- China's central government has contracted independent environmental inspectors for the first time to supervise local governments.

Four teams were dispatched to Inner Mongolia and Ningxia in the north, and Jiangxi and Guangxi in the south this week. Four more teams will set off soon for Heilongjiang, Henan, Jiangsu and Yunnan provinces, according to the government sources on Friday.

Inspections will last around a month and the major tasks are to assess the implementation of central government environment policy and control of serious environmental problems.

Inspectors will hear briefs from provincial and city environmental regulators, interview officials, carry out field investigations and talk to concerned members of the public.

Their reports will be submitted to the Organizational Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee as a key aspects of the performance assessment of senior officials.

They will share their findings with local authorities and pass on leads in any possible graft cases to discipline inspection agencies.

Local governments are required to work out a plan to correct the problems exposed by inspectors and submit it to the central government within 30 days, followed by a progress report six months later.

The decision to use independent inspectors was made in July last year to address worsening environment problems.

From Dec. 31 in 2015 to Feb. 4, the first team in north China's Hebei Province, processed nearly 3,000 complaints from the public which led to closure of 200 polluters and detention of 123 suspects. About 60 officials were punished.

Independent inspectors will be sent to all provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities within two years.

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