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China’s local governments prioritize pollution control in work reports

Updated: Jan 19,2017 7:44 PM     Xinhua

BEIJING — Pollution was “top enemy” among provincial lawmakers and political advisors at the ongoing plenary meetings across China as various local governments have vowed to tackle the issue.

In Beijing, 18.2 billion yuan ($2.6 billion) will be spent to fight air pollution in 2017, according to the municipal government, which aims to limit the annual average density of hazardous PM2.5 to around 60 micrograms per cubic meter this year.

In 2017, the city will strengthen air pollution treatment, replace coal with clean energy in 700 villages, phase out 300,000 high-polluting old vehicles, and close or upgrade 2,570 polluting factories, said acting mayor Cai Qi while delivering the city government work report.

A new specialist police force aimed at stepping up environmental protection supervision and accountability was launched in Beijing on Jan 18.

Governments of neighboring Hebei province and Tianjin municipality, both frequently haunted by smog, have also set specific PM2.5 density reduction targets in their work reports.

Joint pollution prevention and control among governments in the Yangtze River Delta region were highlighted at the Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress.

Regional regulators must abandon their territorial mindset and address water and air pollution by sharing information and acting in concert, said Li Dongliang, a member of the municipal people’s political consultative conference.

According to the Shanghai government report, low-efficiency land use will be limited, while domestic waste sorting and collection as well as carbon emissions trading will be promoted.

The annual average density of PM2.5 in Shanghai last year was 45 micrograms per cubic meter, down 27.4 percent since 2013, said Zhang Quan, director of the city’s environmental protection bureau.

Northeast China’s Liaoning province also saw a year-on-year 16.4-percent decrease in PM2.5 density last year and 284 days with good air, 26 days more than 2015, its government work report said.

The province has dismantled nearly 6,000 coal-fired boilers and phased out over 220,000 high-polluting vehicles, which led to much better air quality during the usually smoggy winter heating season, said Yang Yudong of the provincial environmental protection department.

Liaoning also launched a crackdown on river and terrigenous marine pollution. Hundreds of factories were punished and fines of millions of yuan were issued during the mission, according to the government work report.

“The environmental protection bureau used to take a back seat at annual legislature sessions. However, as more attention has been paid to the field and more power attached to the sector, we feel both encouraged and pressured,” a local environmental official said.