Shanghai has had its best year on the PM2.5 front since records of the yearly average density of the city's major air pollutant were begun five years ago.
According to a report issued by Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau yesterday, the city also enjoyed improved water quality and better regulated discharge of volatile organic compounds by industrial enterprises last year thanks to strengthened environment law enforcement and revised regulations.
The report said 75.8 percent of days in 2017 reported an excellent or good air quality, with an air quality index (AQI) no higher than 100.
Though that figure isn't much changed from 2016's 75.4 percent, the average density of the hazardous to health PM2.5 pollutant particles last year dropped 13.3 percent to 39 micrograms per cubic meter from 45 in 2016. The figure was 62 in 2013, 52 in 2014 and 53 in 2015.
The average density of other air pollutants such as PM10 and sulfur dioxide also fell in 2017. PM10 was 55 micrograms per cubic meter, down 6.8 percent on 2016. The average density of sulfur dioxide was 12 micrograms per cubic meter, down from 15.
According to a draft three-year (2018-2020) plan of Shanghai's environmental protection project issued by the environment authority, the average density of PM2.5 will fall "steadily below 40 micrograms per cubic meter" by 2020. Also, heavily polluted days — with a daily average AQI higher than 200 — are due to be eradicated by 2020.
Shanghai reported two days of heavy pollution in 2017.
World Health Organization's recommended standard for PM2.5 within a 24-hour period of time is no greater than 25 micrograms per cubic meter, and 10 micrograms per cubic meter over a one-year period.
The draft might still be revised after opinions are collected from other city government departments and the Shanghai People's Congress.
As for the city's water environment last year, 82 percent of water samples collected from Shanghai's 259 rivers, which have been listed as water quality supervision spots, are meeting the lowest national standard — an increase of 16 percentage points from 2016.
The average density of chemicals such as permanganate, ammonia nitrogen and total phosphorus also recorded decreases.
According to the environment authority, strengthened law enforcement and stricter management regulation over environment polluters contributed to the improvements. Shanghai reported 4,477 environment law violations last year, a 35 percent rise on 2016. A total of 477 million yuan (US.5 million) in fines was collected — almost double that of 2016.
Just over a year ago, Shanghai decided to impose tougher than the national average environmental penalties on violators. Those causing pollution deliberately, destroying evidence or whose actions lead to severe consequences will face "top-level penalties."
Shanghai Tuban Printing Co was one of those who fell foul of the environment authority.
The company had been discharging high-density waste gas despite knowing that its waste gas control facilities were not working properly. It also created fake discharge data in an attempt to deceive environment supervisors.
The environment authority's law enforcement team issued a 2.35 million yuan fine to the company last March, and one of its managers was detained by police.
However, the company ignored the authority's orders after receiving the fine. It was then forced to suspend operations for six months, which led to a 150 million yuan loss. It was not until the company invested 36 million yuan and had its anti-pollution facilities upgraded that it was allowed to resume production by the authority.
According to the bureau, Shanghai will apply stricter waste discharge standards to more industries, including furniture manufacturers, starting later this year.
Last year, 71 industrial firms in Shanghai had been named major dischargers of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). To control the discharge of VOCs, the authority doubled the discharge fee required from them to 20 yuan per kilogram two years ago. After the adjustment, the total amount of VOCs discharged by the firms was cut by half (6,900 tons) in 2017, compared with 2015.
Anti-pollution measures taken by neighboring provinces in the Yangtze River Delta region also contributed to Shanghai's improved environment quality.
In 2017, 16,600 coal burning boilers have been replaced or removed from the Yangtze River Delta region, and 270,000 heavy polluting vehicles have been taken off the roads. Furthermore, 5,755 enterprises have been required to take VOC discharge control measures in the region.
The average density of PM2.5 in the region was 44 micrograms per cubic meter in 2017, down 34.3 percent from 2013.