Anti-pollution plan gets mixed reviews

Updated: 2013-01-21 07:57

By Cao Yin and Zheng Xin (China Daily)

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Anti-pollution plan gets mixed reviews

Capital proposes targeting vehicles, factories and outdoor barbecues

A top environmentalist has hailed draft measures to clean up Beijing's air as a major breakthrough - but residents seem less impressed.

The proposed Air Pollution Control Regulation targets vehicles, factories and outdoor barbecues, and it promises large fines for those who break the rules.

Environmental protection officials hope the policy will help reduce the smog that has clouded the capital in recent weeks.

For Feng Yongfeng, founder of Green Beagle, the regulation is a step in the right direction.

"It's more transparent (than the legislation introduced in 2000) and focuses more on public concerns, which shows the government has attached more importance to the voice of the people," he said on Sunday. "Gauging public opinion will help tackle the problem."

The draft, which is open for comments until Feb 8, requires authorities to forecast pollution levels, and take firm action, including suspending production at factories and ordering vehicles off the city's roads.

Rule-breakers will face fines from 50,000 yuan ($8,040) to 500,000 yuan.

Feng said the draft strengthens guidance and supervision, while increasing penalties for bad behavior. But he warned it will still take time to deal with the capital's air problems.

For larger polluting companies, a penalty of 50,000 yuan simply will not contain their illegal behavior, as the cost of abiding by the law is much higher than breaking it, Feng said.

The government should also increase punishments that target the major polluting industries, he added.

Because a third of the city's PM2.5 (particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter) is contributed by neighboring cities, the capital's efforts simply cannot solve the problem by themselves, he added.

Another issue could be the regional traffic restriction in the regulation, which fails to give more details on what kind of vehicles and industries should be targeted on heavy smog days. This has concerned some residents.

"I can't go to school by bus or taxi if my car is ordered off the road," said Huang Jing, 20, who drives to a university in Fengtai district every day. Even after reading the draft on the Internet, he said he did not know whether his car will be restricted.

"The bus takes too much time, and everyone knows how hard it is to get a taxi," he said. "I look forward to a more specific explanation."

Shen Jingjing also said she felt the restriction might inconvenience residents.

"It makes sense that the government appeal to the public to use public transportation on serious polluting days, but mandatory measures are simply beyond all reason," the 36-year-old said.

"You can reward those with cars when they use public transportation, rather than punish those who drive when they have to."

In addition to harsh restrictions on vehicles, the draft also threatens to fine street barbecue vendors 5,000 yuan if they continue working on bad air days.

Liu Xiaohang, who lives in a community with many restaurants and outdoor barbecues in Chaoyang district, said he does not think the punishment can solve the problem.

"In summer, many sidewalk snack stall owners develop their businesses around my home, which were very dirty and polluted the air. But they were not banned under current regulations, let alone a new one," the 25-year-old said.

"What I am most concerned about is the enforcement. If the draft is passed but without enforcement, it still will not work."

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(China Daily 01/21/2013 page3)