City plans to boost air quality in stages

Updated: 2012-02-10 14:02

By Zheng Xin (China Daily)

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30 stations to monitor PM 2.5 will be built across capital by end of year

BEIJING - Reducing fine particle pollution is the Beijing municipal government's top priority for 2012, ahead of housing, health, and education, according to a local government report.

"Reducing fine particle pollution will be a long, tough battle," Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing municipal environmental protection bureau, told China Daily, "but we will stick to it."

According to the environmental protection bureau, the average reading of PM 2.5 was between 70 micrograms and 80 micrograms per cubic meter in 2010. The city aims to cut the concentration down to 60 micrograms per cubic meter in 2015 and 50 micrograms in 2020.

In a addition to the goals for limiting the concentration of pollutants, the new national standards preliminarily passed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection expanded air quality readings to include PM 2.5 as well as tightened rules for some already monitored pollutants, such as PM 10 and nitrogen oxides.

Wang Qiuxia, a researcher with the Green Beagle, an environmental protection non-governmental organization based in Beijing, said it took European countries several decades to improve air quality, but the government can still make more progress if environmental protection is put ahead of economic development.

"The government can accelerate their efforts to clean up the air if they are really determined," Wang said.

"We've learned over the decades that once the environment is damaged, it takes great effort to repair," she said.

According to the bureau, the city has witnessed a steady decline of PM 2.5 concentration in recent years, from a yearly average reading of 100 micrograms to 110 micrograms per cubic meter in 2000 to 80-90 in 2005 and 70-80 in 2010.

The city will have 30 PM 2.5 air monitoring stations installed throughout the city's 16 districts by the end of this year, and six of them will be set up in the near future.

Du said vehicle emissions play a significant role in contributing to the city's particulate pollutants, and the city is determined to scrap another 10,000 cars that produce heavy emissions out of the 5 million total in the city, and the city's fuel emission standards will be tightened.

Du said that fighting pollution is a regional effort. According to the bureau, 24.5 percent of the PM 2.5 pollutants are from the neighboring provinces.

"The air pollution control is not an issue for Beijing alone," said Du. "It's important we make joint efforts with surrounding provinces to fight against air pollution together."