Coal-fired units at a power plant in Liaocheng, Shandong province, are demolished in August after the local authorities found it violated environmental protection regulations.[Photo/Xinhua]
China’s efforts to control air and water pollution could become strong drivers of a sustainable economy, experts said.
Since the Action Plan on Air Pollution Prevention and Control was released in September 2013, the quality of air has improved. Last year the air quality exceeded national standards on 241 days, 20 more than in 2013, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection’.
The improvement continued this year. In 74 major cities, the number of days with good air quality accounted for 68 percent of the first six months, a year-on-year rise of 6.9 percent, said Luo Yi, head of the ministry’s Environmental Monitoring Department.
Under the action plan, by 2017 the concentration of PM2.5－fine particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter－will be reduced by 10 percent from the 2012 level.
“Most of the 74 cities reduced their PM2.5 concentration by at least 10 percent in 2014. If we can maintain that pace with the existing measures, it will be possible to reach the goals set by the action plan,” said Wang Yi, head of the Institute of Policy and Management at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Efforts to reduce air pollution have resulted in the closure of some heavily polluting industries, reducing national GDP by 115 billion yuan ($18 billion), according to a report released by the ministry on Sept 9.
The decline in GDP will have a short-term impact, but will also help to promote the “green growth” of the economy, according to Li Zuojun, deputy head of the Environmental Policies Institute at the State Council’s Development Research Center.
Wang Jinnan, chief engineer with the ministry’s Environmental Planning Department, said experts estimate that the measures laid down by the air pollution control action plan would stimulate GDP growth by 1.94 trillion yuan and create about 1.95 million jobs.
In April, the State Council approved the Action Plan on Water Pollution Prevention and Control. Under the plan, by 2020, 70 percent of the water in the seven major river basins, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, will reach the two highest quality levels. The number will increase to more than 75 percent by 2030.
In addition, by 2020, the number of heavily polluted, fetid rivers in urban regions will be reduced by 90 percent from the 2014 level, and almost entirely eradicated by 2030.