China’s central and western regions had the worst air pollution in the nation during the first quarter, according to Greenpeace East Asia.
Henan, Hubei, Hunan and Sichuan were among the 10 worst-polluted provinces in the three months ended March 31, Greenpeace said in an e-mailed statement.
The provinces are areas of the country where local governments have yet to enact stricter pollution controls.
The findings are based on the environmental organization’s analysis of air quality data from 360 Chinese cities during the period. Henan and Hubei have surpassed even Hebei, which is “notorious” for its pollution, according to Greenpeace.
Fighting pollution has taken center stage as Chinese politicians confront the task of starting to clean up the smog enveloping the nation’s biggest cities. President Xi Jinping has pledged an “iron hand” to protect the environment.
The government’s pollution control has improved air quality modestly in certain cities such as Beijing and along the coast, Greenpeace said.
The improvements are “the only silver lining in a situation where 90 percent of cities still record levels of pollution that far exceed China’s own air quality standards,” said Zhang Kai, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.
Beijing was China’s fourth-most polluted city in the first quarter, though the concentration of PM2.5 — fine particulates that pose the greatest risk to human health — improved more than 13 percent from a year ago, according to Greenpeace.
Average PM2.5 levels in the cities under study reached 66 micrograms per cubic meter, almost double the national standard of 35, it said.