China to implement stricter air quality controls

Updated: 2013-07-23 03:35


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GUIYANG - Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian announced at an international forum that China will issue a series of tough measures by the end of July to curb air pollution.

The measures will enhance controls over PM2.5, or dangerous airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter, in populated regions and metropolises, said Zhou, who added that curbing air pollution is a "protracted battle."

Heavy pollution has hit multiples parts of China since the beginning of the year, affecting 600 million people, according to statistics from the National Development and Reform Commission.

At an environmental forum held in Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou Province, that ended on Sunday, experts said China has the worst PM2.5 readings of any country, adding that air quality in 64 percent of China's cities does not meet new national standards issued in 2012.

Ding Yihui, a climate change advisor at the China Meteorological Administration, said major cities have suffered a significant reduction in the amount of sunlight they receive since the 1980s, which has affected transportation and agriculture.

As a major air contaminant, PM 2.5 not only causes direct pollution, but also leads to secondary pollution, Zhou said.

Although government departments have strived to curb air pollution for years, their achievements have been few. Air pollution has also spread to neighboring countries.

Zhou said a government action plan for preventing and treating air pollution calls for strictly controlling sectors that produce large amounts of waste and pollution, as well as strengthening efforts to eliminate outdated technology in the steel, cement and electrolytic aluminum industries.

"The central government is determined to curb emissions in energy-consuming and highly-polluting industries," Zhou said.

He said the government will continue energy restructuring efforts, as coal burning is a major source of air pollution.

Supplies of clean energy such as natural gas and methane will be increased and construction projects that fail to pass environmental evaluations will not be allowed to continue, Zhou said.

Zhou also emphasized the importance of controlling pollutants other than PM2.5.

Experts say the action plan is a landmark effort in the government's fight to control air pollution.

Wang Jinnan, deputy head of the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, said the plan indicates that the government is focusing more on improving air quality, with more attention paid to controlling multiple pollutants and their sources, as well as strengthened cooperation between government departments.

In order to carry out the measures effectively, government departments and research institutes should formalize a national atmospheric pollutant emission inventory and create an effective supervision system for air pollution prevention and treatment, said Chai Fahe, deputy head of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.