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N.China coal plants severely damage health

By Wen Ya (Global Times)

08:57, June 18, 2013

Pollution caused by emissions of PM2.5 from 196 coal-fired power stations in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province could have led to the premature deaths of 9,900 residents in 2011, and 152 thermal plants are to blame for 75 percent of the assumed deaths, according to a Greenpeace report released Monday.

The figures for the deceased include nearly 2,000 in Beijing, 1,200 in Tianjin and 6,700 in Hebei, said the report.

The report is based on a system developed by H. Andrew Gray, a US expert in air pollution modeling, and used climate, population and health statistics from Chinese sources to reach its conclusions. The research aims to evaluate the health problems caused by PM2.5, air particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less that could lead to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

The report covered roughly 200 power plants in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei.

"Using coal as a fuel has great negative influences on people's health in the region. Thermal-powered plants in Hebei are mainly responsible as there are too many heavy industries," said Huang Wei, a director with the climate and energy project from Greenpeace.

But Pu Xiaohua, an industry analyst with JYD Online Co, a Beijing-based bulk commodity consultancy, told the Global Times that the deaths can't only be attributed to thermal plants in Hebei, since they have existed for a long time.

"Many thermal plants have been updated and installed with recycling equipment to deal with waste," said Pu, adding that steel, cement and chemical factories in Hebei also use coal and cause heavy pollution.

Since there are many power-hungry industries in Hebei, it has become a major source of pollution, said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing.

The annual coal consumption in Hebei is some 200 million tons, 10 times more than Beijing and nearly three times higher than Tianjin, according to Ma. Several highly polluting factories such as steelmaker Shougang group have also moved to Hebei. "Hebei can't bear so many enterprises that easily cause heavy pollution," he said.

In the first quarter of this year, seven cities in the province, including its capital Shijiazhuang, were listed in the top 10 cities nationwide with the most serious pollution, the People's Daily reported.

A regional system to manage air pollution caused by PM2.5 will be established and an air pollution assessment system will be set up, according to a circular by the State Council on Friday.

"However, reshuffling the industrial structure in Hebei Province should not be ignored," Pan Xiaochuan, a professor with the School of Public Health, Peking University, told the Global Times. "Otherwise, we'll continue to pay more costs for economic development."

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