A suite of targeted and stricter measures have been announced to address severe air pollution in the area around China’s capital city during the winter heating season.
Recent data from China’s Environmental Protection ministry has shown that although air quality improved continuously nationwide last year, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region still suffered heavy pollution, largely caused by PM2.5 particles.
The same data showed the average density of the particles in Beijing in the first ten months last year was cut by over 21 percent compared with the same period in 2014.
However, during the heating season, which began in mid-November, the PM2.5 density in the city surged over 75 percent year on year.
Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Environmental Protection Minister Chen Jining said the latest step in the regional air pollution fight is to unify standards for issuing air pollution alerts and those alerts would be issued according to the forecast maximum level of PM2.5.
“Unified standards for issuing air pollution alerts in Beijing and five neighbouring cities, including Tianjin Municipality as well as Baoding, Langfang, Tangshan and Cangzhou in north China’s Hebei Province, will be rolled out before March 15.”
Beijing and its surrounding area is one of the worst PM2.5-polluted regions in China.
Coal-fired electricity generation, as well as vehicle exhaust, are said to be the main factors driving up pollution levels across the region in the annual heating season.
According to Chen Jining, a strong El Nino effect, which brought static weather patterns making it difficult for airborne pollutants to disperse, made the situation even worse this winter.
He said apart from a revised air quality warning system, a slew of follow-up measures will also be put in place to prevent air pollution from getting worse again.
“Continued efforts including information sharing, tougher supervision over polluting firms, crackdowns on polluting vehicles and replacing coal with electricity or gas in heating will be carried out to cope with winter smog.”
China enacted its Environmental Protection Law a year ago, and the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law this January.
Chen Jinning noted it is also be a priority to implement these new laws effectively.
“Despite the deterrence of penalties and the growing public awareness of environment protection, many enterprises still risk being punished for discharging pollutants. During the 13th Five-year plan period, a major crackdown will be launched against polluters. But it requires the efforts of both the environmental protection authorities and groups from all walks of society.”