Capital ordered to clear the air for NPC and CPPCC meetings
Clear air needed for meetings of legislators and advisers, leadership says
The central leadership has ordered the capital to get rid of smog in time for annual meetings next month of the legislature and top political advisory body.
The environmental watchdog listed Beijing 9th among the 10 most polluted cities last month.
The city was blanketed by heavy smog on 26 days in January and saw air pollution readings reach record levels. Readings of PM2.5 - tiny particles that can be inhaled - were more than 40 times the maximum level recommended by the World Health Organisation at one stage.
The level of pollution in Beijing is deemed so bad that the central government has been pressuring the municipal government to ensure the smog will not return during the meetings of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference next month, an environmental source says.
Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Wu Xiaoqing told staff at Beijing's two air quality monitoring stations recently to tackle the problem, which he blamed on extreme meteorological conditions, the China Environmental News, the ministry's official newspaper, reported yesterday.
"Beijing has won public understanding and recognition for its efforts to release accurate and real-time air quality ratings, as well as prompt actions … and with advanced technology and rich talent, Beijing is expected to do even better," Wu said.
But the public appears less impressed.
Three local green NGOs yesterday submitted their comments on Beijing's draft regulations for preventing air pollution. They called on the government to significantly raise fines for polluting companies, give better guidance to vulnerable groups on heavily polluted days, improve transparency about polluters and give the public greater power to supervise government.
Some experts say Beijing cannot tackle the problem alone because it is surrounded by other polluting towns and cities. Eight cities recorded worse air quality than Beijing last month, seven of them in neighbouring Hebei province, which is the mainland's third-biggest user of coal, burning at least 300 million tonnes a year.
Jinan and Zhengzhou , the capitals of Shandong and Henan provinces, also made the list released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection on Wednesday.
Haikou in Hainan, Fuzhou in Fujian and Zhoushan in Zhejiang had the best air quality last month.
Niu Wenyuan , a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said top leaders needed to redraw urban plans and revamp industry in the area encompassing Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei or there would be no solution to the problem.