China launches toughest anti-smog measures for winter as gov't urges factory upgrades

Updated 2017-10-13 09:03:53 Global Times

Firms get government subsidies to upgrade production: expert

China has launched its toughest anti-pollution campaign for the upcoming heating season, with 31 cities pledging to restrict activity in factories.

Three cities recently joined other regions in northern China in implementing measures to fight air pollution as the heaviest pollution season approaches. Specifically, the environmental protection bureau of East China's Shandong Province requires the city of Linyi to shut down steel, iron, ferro-nickel and manganese iron production from November 15 this year to March 15, 2018.

The government of Linfen, North China's Shanxi Province requires its steel mills to slash activity in half. And the government of Xuzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province requires the city's steel, cement, brick and glass factories to reduce activity by at least 30 percent.

Experts said this shows the government's determination to fight air pollution this winter, as more residents grow increasingly concerned about health risks.

"China has been taking tough measures in recent years to curb pollution and significant improvements had been made in the first half of last year. However, in winter, the smog bounced back, and several pollution alerts have triggered public concern. This year, the government is determined to impose far stricter limits on coal use and hasten economic restructuring away from the heavily polluting sectors," Wang Gengchen, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Atmospheric Physics, told the Global Times.

China is targeting a drop of at least 15 percent in the level of PM 2.5 particles in 28 cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region as well as in Shandong and Shanxi provinces between October 2017 and March 2018.

"The plan is based on previous experiences, and the target balances environment protection and economic development. It means the level of PM 2.5 particles this winter should be kept at an average of around 60 micrograms per cubic meter," Wang said.

Widespread measures

On Thursday, the city of Tangshan, Hebei Province began enforcing the odd-and-even license plate scheme, and local iron and steel plants began to limit production a month ahead of schedule, China National Radio reported.

On Wednesday, the environmental authority of Shanxi, China's top coal producing region, vowed to cut PM 2.5 levels and sulfur dioxide by 40 percent from October to March, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Some cities in Shanxi have been plagued by high levels of sulfur dioxide in previous winter heating seasons. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Environmental Protection summoned top officials from Linfen, Shanxi as the density of SO2 in the city reached a high of 1,303 micrograms per cubic meter on January 4, 21 times higher than the national standard.

"Some people may worry that the tough restrictions would stifle the country's economic development. However, the government is not shutting down factories but providing subsidies and guidance to companies to help them upgrade," Wang said.

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