Beijing air pollution
The Chinese capital has for many years suffered from serious air pollution. Primary sources of pollutants include exhaust emission from Beijing's more than five million motor vehicles, coal burning in neighbouring regions, dust storms from the north and local construction dust. A particularly severe smog engulfed the city for weeks in early 2013, elevating public awareness to unprecedented levels and prompting the government to roll out emergency measures.
China to expand anti-pollution programme this year
More cities to join monitoring network to measure tiny particles in light of worsening air quality
The mainland will step up its fight against air pollution this year and expand its PM2.5 monitoring network in the wake of the dense smog that has blanketed many regions this month.
The mainland has 496 PM 2.5 monitoring stations in 74 cities and the Ministry of Environmental Protection said yesterday a further 39 cities would join the monitoring network this year.
Meanwhile, Shanghai issued its first haze warning of the year yesterday, meaning visibility was less than 3,000 metres.
The municipal environmental protection authority used a crying doll symbol to illustrate the "heavily polluted" air, with the PM2.5 level reaching 250 micrograms per cubic metre in the early afternoon, the Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Centre said.
Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian told a national environmental protection work conference yesterday that the monitoring and publication of readings for PM2.5 - fine, respirable particles 2.5 microns or less in diameter - as well as controlling air pollution would be a priority this year, China Radio International reported.
The state-run station quoted Zhou as saying the mainland aimed to cut emissions of sulphur dioxide 2 per cent this year and nitrogen oxides 3 per cent.
"Emissions of air pollutants have reached a very high level and it is an uphill battle to cut them," he said. "A major percentage of incremental emissions is from industrial waste and the nitrogen oxide released from vehicles also keeps on rising."
Zhou said the air quality in 70 per cent of cities did not reach the national standard and the increasing health hazards had become a major concern.
He said local governments were forbidden from intervening in PM2.5 monitoring and his ministry would penalise anyone found falsifying or changing data.
A regional co-operation scheme is also being proposed for heavily contaminated areas, with joint working offices to be established by local governments and spearheaded by the ministry.
Zhou said more vehicles that did not meet emissions standards would be removed from the roads this year and petrol stations would have to provide high-quality petrol and diesel.
The ministry would push local governments to promulgate regulations to tackle the crisis, including measures that could close polluting factories and restrict car use.
Zhou Rong, a climate and energy resources campaigner at Greenpeace's Beijing office, said the regional co-operation scheme could significantly reduce air pollution.
"For example Beijing's recent heavy smog was mainly caused by regions surrounding the city," she said, adding that environmental activists had proposed such a scheme for a long time.
Beijing will implement a stricter emission standard, equivalent to Europe V, for vehicles from next month, Xinhua reported. Shanghai may follow suit in the second half of the year.