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Air quality efforts lauded

(China Daily)

12:31, March 03, 2012

The government appreciates the environmental protection work done by NGOs and looks forward to further mutual communication and understanding, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Friday.

"The active participation and involvement in monitoring of particulate matter pollutants illustrates that the public has increased its awareness of environmental protection," Wu Xiaoqing, deputy environmental protection minister, said at a State Council Information Office news conference.

"The support and understanding of the public is very much appreciated," he said.

Some volunteer monitoring of pollutants suggests that the current monitoring data do not meet the public demand and there is room for improvement, Wu said.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection has in the past invited members of the public to the monitoring laboratory to show how the work is conducted by the government. Environmental testing personnel have demonstrated the air quality monitoring technologies to residents and environmental protection volunteers to help them understand the processes.

However, no matter what methods are applied to evaluate air quality, the top priority lies in reducing the concentration of PM2.5 (particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers or smaller).

Wu said that new air quality standards and evaluation specifications comply with international practices and the air quality data collected by the embassies in China cannot truly reflect the quality of air in the city.

"Accurately monitoring a city's air quality relies on technological standards in the qualifications of the monitoring personnel, the location of the monitoring station and the analytical approach as well as the selection of the monitoring equipment," said Wu.

The revised air quality standards will take account of six pollutants - sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, PM10 and PM2.5 - and representatively cover an area with an accurate monitoring data.

Two-thirds of the cities in China will be substandard under the revised guidelines, according to the ministry.

"That doesn't mean the air quality in those cities is worsening," said Wu. "It's just that more stringent criteria have been adopted to fundamentally improve the air."

To that end, the government is speeding up coordinated pollution control between neighboring cities and focusing on reducing the intensity of prominent problems.

Wu said some cities have more experience in pollution control. The capital for example is employing measures now and had during the 2008 Olympics. Such experience is worth spreading nationwide, he said.

Fifty cities in China are well prepared to start monitoring the concentration of PM2.5 as well as ozone so far, and six others can monitor one or the other, according to the ministry.

By the end of 2015, more than 1,500 monitoring stations will be set up nationwide with an investment exceeding two billion yuan ($320 million), according to Wu.

Li Jing contributed to this story.

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