Inspections have exposed violations by companies illegally discharging pollutants and falsifying monitoring data, despite emergency responses to the ongoing air pollution in northern regions, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Severe violations were exposed by the nation’s top environmental officials during random inspections in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the neighbouring provinces of Henan, Shanxi and Shandong, it said.
The ministry announced the launch of a yearlong intensified inspection programme in the area’s 28 major cities, starting yesterday. Up to 5,600 government workers will be transferred from across the nation to support the mission, making the campaign the largest-ever national operation in the field of environmental protection.
On Tuesday, Chen Jining, the minister of environmental protection, visited Sinopec Beijing Yanshan Co, a major petrochemical enterprise in Fangshan district, to inspect levels of discharged pollutants.
Chen said that after waiting for 20 minutes, he was unable to obtain records on the repairing of equipment related to emissions monitoring.
It showed the company failed to operate as required in controlling and reducing emissions of air pollutants, and it has been required to correct its problems, Chen said.
In addition to poor management, Zhao Yingmin, the vice-minister of environmental protection, exposed severe violations by a new material production company in Anyang, Henan province, which was found to have falsified monitoring data to make sulfur dioxide emission levels show a negative reading.
As of Monday, inspectors in seven cities in northern regions had exposed 200 pollution problems, including excessive emissions, falsified monitoring data and weak implementation of laws by local governments, according to the ministry.
The ministry said on Wednesday that blue-sky days in the 28 major cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and neighbouring provinces of Henan, Shanxi and Shandong accounted for 60.9% of the month, an increase of 20.6% year-on-year.
Beijing started to see the air quality improve by 5pm on Wednesday, but it is forecast to worsen again, becoming severe, the second-highest level in the six-tier quality system, according to the China National Environmental Monitoring Center.
At least 13 cities, including Beijing, had issued orange alerts, the second-highest emergency response level, as of Wednesday.
“It’s essential to implement the restriction efforts fully, and tighten the controls on construction sites and dust caused by vehicles,” Chen said.