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Two-thirds of Chinese cities cannot meet new air quality standards

(Xinhua)

15:58, March 02, 2012

BEIJING, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Wu Xiaoqing, Vice Minister of Environmental Protection, said Friday that two-thirds of China's cities cannot meet recently updated air quality standards, adding that air pollution control will be "an arduous task for the country."

Wu's words came after the State Council, or China's cabinet, on Wednesday passed revised air quality standards that include indices for ozone and PM2.5, or fine particulate matter 2.5 microns or less in diameter.

"Two-thirds of Chinese cities fall short of the new regulation, but this doesn't mean air quality is deteriorating in these cities," Wu said.

The PM10 index was previously used as part of the country's air quality standards before being replaced by the PM2.5 index, which measures fine particles that are considered to be more hazardous to health than larger particles.

Wu said his ministry is working on a five-year plan for air pollution prevention and control in key regions, aiming to reduce the amount of fine particles in the air by strengthening controls over industrial waste treatment and auto emissions.

The vice minister urged local governments to formulate plans for meeting the new standard, raise environmental access requirements for enterprises and invest more in pollution treatment.

The amended standards also impose stricter limits for several types of pollutants and specify new analytical methods for pollutants such as SO2, NO2 and particulates.

Wu said the new standards are a "significant milestone" in the country's environmental protection efforts, as they mark a transformation from pollution control to environmental quality management and risk prevention.

The new standards "generally" follow international practice, although they are still far from meeting the stringent limits set by the World Health Organization, Wu said.

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