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Shanghai prepares for clean air

Wang Zhenghua
Updated: Mar 18,2015 7:45 AM     China Daily

Authorities say PM2.5 remains a big problem as it outlines 100 billion yuan action plan

Shanghai plans to invest 100 billion yuan ($16 billion) in its environmental protection drive for the coming three years, while reducing the concentration of PM2.5 by at least 20 percent from the level in 2013.

Those are part of the targets the municipal government outlined in an action plan for the period between 2015 and 2017.

One of the highlights of the plan, released on March 17, is the increase of capital invested to improve the environment from the average of 21.3 billion yuan in the past 15 years to an average of 33.3 billion yuan committed for the upcoming three years.

Improvements in air quality, water and the ecology will be the focus of the plan.

Measures to fight smog, for example, include shifting the coal-burning boilers and industrial furnaces to clean fuels, transforming power generators to reduce their emissions, phasing out high-polluting vehicles and putting in place further control on dust at construction sites.

Those efforts are expected to help reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide by 20,000 metric tons nitrogen oxide by 40,000 tons and volatile organic compounds by 100,000 tons.

Yang Xin, a professor at Fudan University’s department of environmental science and engineering, called the action plan practical, saying that the government is moving in the right direction to address the biggest concerns of the public regarding the environment.

“In 2014, we saw a big drop in the concentration level of PM2.5 from the previous year,” he said. “That makes the goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2017 not that difficult.”

But the government needs to do more to make the public clearly see the improvement in the environment, he said.

“Lowering PM2.5 levels by 20 percent means a huge reduction of its harm on people’s health. But it won’t bring along great improvement in the visibility of the air, and visibility actually is the main benchmark for the public to judge air quality,” he added.

In the action plan, authorities admitted that PM2.5 and air pollution remain prominent problems, despite the overall improving environment in the city.

For the upcoming three years, the government also vowed to reduce the number of highly polluted water bodies, raise forestation coverage from 13.5 percent to 15.5 percent, and build a sewage disposal system for 90 percent of waste water in urban areas.

On the national level, the country is set to focus efforts this year on fully implementing the revised Environmental Protection Law, which took effect on Jan 1.

No one must use his power to meddle with law enforcement, Premier Li Keqiang said on March 15 at a news conference following the closing of the annual session of the nation’s top legislature.

“All acts of illegal production and emissions will be brought to account. We will make the cost for doing so too high to bear,” he said.