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Stop blame game on China’s air pollution, environment minister says

13 February, 2015

Nectar Gan

Mainland cities should stop blaming each other for air pollution and shoulder their own responsibilities, the environment ministry said yesterday.

Some cities suffering bad air quality were too quick to highlight the influence of neighbours when analysing the source of pollution, said deputy environmental minister Zhai Qing.

“Mutual influence does exist, and is relatively serious in some places.

“But at this stage, cities must not overstress the influence of others and pass the buck. If it is emphasised too much, it will affect our strict implementation of countermeasures,” Zhai said.

In a bid to find solutions to the country’s smog problem, authorities have ordered 35 major cities and municipalities to release detailed analyses of sources of PM2.5 by the end of the year. PM2.5 are superfine particles which lodge deep inside lungs and are considered the most dangerous to human health.

Beijing’s environmental protection department published a report last June that found 28 to 36 per cent of the capital’s PM2.5 particles came from neighbouring areas. Last month Shanghai released a similar report, which found that 16 to 36 per cent of the city’s air pollutants came from surrounding areas.

Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said regional influences could not be ignored. However, he added: “This does not mean that cities don’t need to control their own pollution, because they also influence others, especially those cities with large levels of emissions. In fact, emphasising regional influences means cities should shoulder even more responsibilities.”

Ma said that while cities should deal with their own pollution, joint prevention and control on a regional level was a more difficult task that needed to be coordinated by the central government.

China has exercised strict controls on regional pollution by shutting down factories and construction sites and taking vehicles off the roads during international events such as the Beijing Olympics, Shanghai Expo, Guangzhou Asian Games and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

The measures were effective but unsustainable, Ma said. “Those were administrative orders imposed regardless of the specific situations of the enterprises. They won’t work in the long run. We should use the legal approach, relying on environmental laws and regulations to regulate the factories.”

Ma said that the problems with current regional environmental regulations were how to implement them fairly and strictly, and how to guard against local protection of illegal polluters.

“Regional cooperation should be based on mutual trust, which in turn depends on open information on the cities’ emission data,” he said.

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