Environmental inspectors conducting strict reviews on air pollution in northern cities have exposed serious violations relating to control measures, including insufficient efforts of city governments, with Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province, being criticized for its deterioration of air quality in January.
On Feb 25, over 140 new violations were exposed by the more than 260 inspectors sent by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which launched monthlong inspections on Feb 15 covering the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the neighboring provinces of Henan, Shanxi and Shandong.
The ongoing inspections, headed by the minister Chen Jining and four vice-ministers, are reviewing the measures taken to reduce air pollution as well as companies’ efforts in air pollution control, and have exposed violations such as the poor implementation of emergency plans against air pollution and excessive discharging of pollutants.
On Feb 25, an inspection team led by Zhang Jiliang, deputy head of the environmental bureau in Huaiyin district in Jinan city, Shandong province, found a community in Yuxinzhuang village of Beijing’s Changping district to be illegally using coal-fired boilers, violating the municipal government’s regulations.
The team reported the case to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the district government, which said it would investigate the issue and try to find ways to replace the coal-fired boilers.
“Governments are the major targets in these inspections. We are reviewing departments’ implementation of emergency plans against air pollution and their performance in reducing air pollution,” said Zhang, adding that they have also inspected polluting companies.
Chen inspected Shijiazhuang on Feb 24, urging the city to implement stricter measures to cut air pollution.
Shijiazhuang has seen a sharp deterioration in air quality since October, with the average annual concentration level of PM2.5 — hazardous particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less — growing by 11.2 percent in last year compared with 2015, the ministry said.
In addition, PM2.5 concentration levels in January surged by 51.5 percent year-on-year.
Chen attributed the worsening situation largely to lax environmental efforts of governments, especially those at the county and township levels, inefficient management, a cluster of highly polluting enterprises and poor implementation of response measures to tackle severe pollution.
“The excessive discharging of pollutants from small and scattered plants is a primary source of pollution,” Chen said. “Controlling emissions of such pollution companies should be a priority.”
He also urged greater efforts in strengthening supervision of key enterprises, pressing ahead with industrial upgrading and improving efficiency of environmental protection.