Binhai authorities step up efforts to improve air quality

Updated: 2013-04-15 08:00

By Zhao Yinan and Zhang Min in Tianjin (China Daily)

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Environmental authorities in Tianjin's Binhai New Area have stepped up their monitoring of exhaust emissions in a region known for petroleum refining as part of their efforts to improve regional air quality.

Liu Enlin, deputy director of the Binhai environmental protection bureau, a State-level development zone in Tianjin, said his office is working on a tailor-made air quality improvement plan that includes monitoring airborne pollutants in areas where heavy industries such as oil refineries are concentrated.

"We hope the data can help us assess whether these companies can potentially raise environmental risks and then work out a solution to improve them," he said.

Liu said the project assesses whether refineries lower air quality by recording the levels of PM 2.5 - particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter - and other fine pollutants that being discharged into the air.

Dense smog has often covered large parts of China since January. Beijing, Tianjin and neighboring Hebei province were among the most severely affected areas. The lingering haze has sparked calls from the public and governments to strictly curb regular emissions from pollution sources and reduce the level of fine particles.

Jouni Keranen, a Finnish engineer working at a Binhai-based company, said he has lived in Tianjin for five months. He said his life in the city is good, but he is a bit concerned about the air quality.

He said the government could do more on the issue.

Liu said Binhai has put a lot of effort into improving the environment and the ecology, such as hosting some high-tech industries that have less environmental impact. The area is also home to the Sino-Singaporean Tianjin Eco-City, the world's first eco-city project with international cooperation.

"Although there are some traditional industries such as oil refining and paper manufacturing in the area, they may not necessarily damage the environment, as long as they operate according to the standards," he said.

"The bureau has reinforced supervision and carries out regular inspections. We also encourage companies to upgrade technologies to reduce emissions."

Yan Caiming, general manager of Binhai-based coating supplier PPG Asia Pacific, said the company has invested nearly $10 million in two incinerators that can burn away more than 80 percent of the noxious gases generated during production.

"The flow of air enables airborne pollutants to travel a long distance and have a long-ranging effect on the local environment, so our facilities are not only beneficial to our frontline employees but also the district as a whole," she said.

Yan said the environmentally friendly waterborne automobile coating, which is usually more expensive than other types of products, used to be more welcomed by overseas auto manufacturers than domestic automakers.

"But in recent years we see more local customers, which I see as a gradual awakening of environmental awareness among Chinese companies," she said.

Yan said her company is looking to expand its production of auto waterborne coatings to meet the rising demand from the domestic market.

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(China Daily 04/15/2013 page5)