AIR POLLUTION

Beijing city officials shirking smog blame, China’s environmental watchdog says

Dirty air and water can’t be pinned on outsiders, national agency says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 April, 2017, 4:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 April, 2017, 4:14am

China’s environmental protection watchdog has called out Beijing municipal officials for blaming the capital’s air and water pollution on factors beyond their control.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Wednesday that although some progress had been made in tackling the city’s environmental problems, long-term management remained ­unclear.

“Some local cadres blame environmental problems on external causes,” the ministry’s Central Environmental Protection Inspectorate group said.

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“They have insufficient understanding of the actual reasons involved, and where their own blame lies.”

Since 2013, Beijing’s government has spent 68.3 billion yuan (US$9.92 billion or HK$77.1 billion) on environmental protection and cut coal consumption from 23 million tonnes to 9.5 million tonnes last year.

But the capital continues to choke on smog, due in large part to the tens of thousands of diesel vehicles on its roads.

Inadequate sewage treatment has also left local water sources with significant concentrations of pollutants, according to a report by Caixin.

Neighbouring Hebei province is home to the 10 cities with the worst air in the country, according to last year’s inspection report.

China’s economic growth has taken a heavy toll on its environment, with factories and headlong urbanisation poisoning skies, rivers and soil. While top leaders have pledged to take serious steps in the “war on pollution”, local governments have been criticised for lax enforcement of regulations.

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Recent central government investigations found pervasive polluting by manufacturers in the urban cluster of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and surrounding areas.

Some 72 per cent of 847 enterprises inspected earlier this week had committed environmental violations, a government statement stated. Some companies had engaged in illegal production, while others emitted excess amounts of pollutants or had pollution control facilities that were not in operation or incomplete. Seven high-profile enterprises had pollutant monitoring facilities that were not functioning, or were even fake.

An additional 389 enterprises were inspected on Thursday, with violations found in 63 per cent. The violations included illegal production, pollutant levels that exceeded limits, lack of pollutant management systems and inadequate measures to control dust.

The glass industry in particular had major issues, with three large facilities found to be directly emitting pollutants without any treatment, causing excess amounts of nitrogen oxide.

Local environmental protection bureaus were informed of these violations, and would follow up, the government said.