Clean air action plan to reduce pollution

Updated: 2013-09-12 11:08

By Wu Wencong (

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Residents in China may be able to breathe much cleaner air within five years, according to an action plan released by the State government on Thursday, which contains the toughest-ever measures to combat airborne pollution.

The action plan sets specific goals for all of China’s 338 county-level cities. By 2017, the concentration of breathable suspended particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less must fall by at least 10 percent compared to 2012.

Tougher objectives have been set for a number of key areas. The regions of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province must reduce the concentration of PM 2.5 — those smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, which can penetrate deep into the lungs — by about 25 percent by 2017, based on the 2012 level. The target for the Yangtze River Delta region is around 20 percent, while it’s roughly 15 percent for the Pearl River Delta region.

Major measures among the plan’s 35 items involve bringing pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds, under control. Also achieving negative coal consumption in several regions, accelerating the process of monitoring and disclosing PM2.5 readings, extending monitoring from 119 county-level cities to all 338 before 2015, and banning heavily-polluting motor vehicles from the streets by 2017.

Experts and officials said the plan may have an adverse effect on some industries, but will also favor many others, such as encouraging industries like steel and coal to grow in a much healthier mode, according to Wang Jian, deputy head of the pollution prevention and control department at the Environmental Protection Ministry.

“An estimated 1,700 billion yuan ($277 billion) of investment from all channels will also back up the environmental protection industry. We can tell that the combined influence on the economy will be positive,” he said.

The action plan is deemed the toughest ever, not just because of the stringent targets it sets, but also because of its performance assessment system, which will involve the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China in environmental action plans for the first time.

The department has the power to appoint or dismiss officials. If local governments fail to reach their allocated targets, it may affect the positions and political futures of the officials involved, according to Wang.

Special: Fight Air Pollution