Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei's multimillion-yuan studies find smog is coming from neighbours

As much as 36 per cent of smog coming from other cities, data shows as officials splurge to find more precise analysis of pollution

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 7:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 8:06pm

Smog-plagued cities Beijing, Tianjin and Shijiazhuang have each splashed several million yuan on research that could pinpoint the sources of the toxic pollutant PM2.5 in their air, with initial results showing other cities are a source.

At least another 32 cities on the mainland would conduct similar studies and publish reports by the end of this year, which some experts said would help fine-tune pollution prevention measures, The Beijing News reported today.

Smog has been a plague on many mainland cities in recent years, but the problem takes on greater urgency for neighbours Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei (of which Shijiazhuang is a city) as plans are laid for the region, dubbed “Jing-Jin-Ji”, to integrate economically and form a massive megalopolis.

Beijing environmental authorities said in April that between 28 and 36 per cent of air pollution was transported from nearby regions, composing the largest source of the city’s notorious smog.

Emissions from vehicles, coal burning and industrial plants respectively contributed to 31, 22, and 18 per cent of locally generated pollution.

Findings on Tianjin and Shijiazhuang’s pollution sources will be released to the public once they are approved by central government, according to the report.

But initial results show both cities have at least 20 per cent of their pollution coming from other cities.

The research work is both expensive and labour-intensive. For instance, Beijing municipal environmental monitoring centre has spent “several million yuan” on importing a piece of equipment which can analyse heavy-metal ingredients in the pollutants, the report said.

WATCH: Beijing shrouded in smog

Researchers are required to collect samples of air pollutants several times each week for a whole year, and analysing one each sample also costs more than 10,000 yuan (HK$12,600).

Similarly, both Tianjin and Shijiazhuang have spent “several millions yuan” on the research, according to the report.

However, with findings showing a high percentage of imported pollution, local governments have an excuse if they fail to meet smog-elimination targets in the future, according to unnamed officials cited in the newspaper report.

Cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei areas are ordered to cut PM2.5 levels – the particulate pollutants smaller than 2.5 microns – by 25 per cent by 2017 from 2012 levels, with other city clusters in Yangtze and Pearl river deltas having similar targets.

Liu Shusheng, an official with Ministry of Environmental Protection’s pollution monitoring division, said such research will help environmental authorities identify the most economic and effective measures to tackle the problem.

Still, Liu admitted, pollution from coal consumption, industrial sector, vehicles and dust from construction work are the major sources nationwide, and cities should start emission reduction efforts even without such studies.