China responds to pollution fears


TWO-THIRDS of China’s cities fail to meet tougher new air-quality standards, a senior environmental official has said.

The government has responded to public fears about pollution by issuing revised targets. Chinese cities will have four years to get their pollution levels down to the new limits, which cover the smallest particulates, known as PM 2.5, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, said.

“After the new standard is implemented, two-thirds of our nation’s cities will not meet the air quality requirements,” Wu Xiaoqing, vice-minister of environmental protection, said yesterday in Beijing. “Our task of air pollution control is huge.” he added.

Indications that the government was getting tough on pollution came at the end of a week of heavy pollution in Beijing.

An expanding economy has meant a swift rise in car owners, while coal-fired power stations generate energy for the booming industrial sector.

People are worried about their health and that of their children. Moreover, the government is aware that these anxieties could prove destabilising.

The air-quality standards will initially apply in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing, as well as 27 provincial capitals and three key regions, including the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

More than 100 smaller cities will adopt the standards in 2013, and they will be extended to all cities by 2015.

Beijing previously based its air quality data on particles of 10 micrometres or larger, which meant the reading was often low even when the capital was choking in a visible, yellowish thick smog.

The requirements meet World Health Organisation’s recommendations for lowering pollution in developing countries, but are more than three times higher than the body’s internationally recommended goals.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said many cities had already started preparations to monitor PM 2.5.

“Including PM 2.5 and ozone is definitely significant progress in pollution control and environmental protection,” Mr Ma told the China Daily.

The government has pledged to expedite the eradication of major polluting industrial plants and replace them with clean energy sources, including wind, solar and biomass.