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Draft unites Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei in effort to battle smog

By Zheng Jinran in Shijiazhuang and Zheng Xin in Beijing (China Daily)

08:28, June 05, 2013

Action for air quality control is under review

The draft of a coordinated mechanism for Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province to cooperate in air pollution control has been sent to the State Council for further review, an official with Hebei's environmental department said on Tuesday.

A united organization composed of leaders from the three governments will be set up once the draft receives approval, which will help officials release early warnings on smog and allow for concerted actions to curb air pollution, said Sun Xuejun, head of the pollution control office with Hebei Environmental Protection Bureau.

"The draft will stipulate detailed actions at every level of warning and control," he said, giving an example that production would be suspended at a certain number of companies involved in the pollution if the air quality index reached a serious level.

The draft will list the exact number of companies, he said.

"The State Council has received the draft and will review it as early as this month," he said. "We have reviewed the supplemental documents on Hebei a dozen times. Once the central government passes the process, making it a guideline, we will release and implement our new action plan immediately."

Hebei, Beijing and Tianjin were shrouded in off-the-charts smog and pollution levels several times during the first two months of 2013. Even on Tuesday, Shijiazhuang, the capital city of Hebei province was hit by smog, where the air quality index reached 491 at 9 am, the most serious level of air pollution (the highest measurable index is 500), according to the bureau's website.

Among the 77 major cities in China, the majority of cities that experienced severe air pollution levels came from Hebei, according to the monthly reports released from the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The annual environment condition bulletin of Hebei showed that five cities, including Shijiazhuang and Baoding, had more than 55 days covered by thick fog with air pollution reaching severe levels and fewer than 25 days of air quality in the "good" level from the beginning of 2013 to May 20.

Beijing, however, witnessed a decrease in major pollutant intensity over the past year, with a decline in major pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide. But it still faced challenges with a large rise in pollutant emissions, according to the capital's 2012 environment bulletin released on Tuesday.

"We cannot wait to take measures to control the deteriorating air conditions, especially since the province has such a severe situation currently," Yang Zhiming, deputy head of Hebei province's environmental protection bureau, said on Tuesday. "Yet pollution cannot be curbed by a single government. It requires united actions among the three."

Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday that the reason for lingering smog in northern China during the first months of 2013 lay in the current industrial structure in China, in which heavy industry accounts for a large proportion.

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