BEIJING - Chinese cities will need to coordinate efforts to clear up the sky when a new mechanism to improve regional air quality is set up by 2015, according to the latest plan released by the State Council.
Besides the existing pollution control program for sulfur dioxide, regional emission caps for nitrogen oxides will be established in the three "key air polluting areas" - the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.
Coal-consumption caps will also be piloted in some areas, according to the plan.
The plan is aimed at tackling regional air pollution - such as acid rain, haze and smog - which have become increasingly distinct in China in recent years and pose a severe threat to people's health, Zhang Lijun, vice-minister of environmental protection, said in an interview on Monday.
The air quality in a city affects the regions nearby because pollutants can travel through atmospheric circulation, said Chai Fahe, vice-director of Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.
"So efforts to slash air pollution in a single city, targeting a certain pollutant will not be enough," Chai said.
Zhang said the country's major industrial hubs - the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region - have recorded more than 100 hazy days annually in recent years.
These three regions, home to at least 200 million people, occupy only 6.3 percent of the country's area but consume 40 percent of the country's coal and produce half of its steel, according to official figures.
Studies also show that the visibility in eastern regions of China has dropped by 7 to 15 km compared to that in the early 1960s, as a result of air pollution.
Liaoning province, the Shandong peninsula, Wuhan in Hubei province and its surrounding area, the Changsha-Zhuzhou-Xiangtan region in Hunan province, the Chengdu-Chongqing region, and the western coast of the Taiwan Straits are also listed as areas to implement such regional air pollution control programs, according to the plan.
The new plan also requires an improved air quality appraisal system, which will measure the pollution levels of fine particulates volatile organic compounds (VOC) and ground-level ozone, the causes of haze in some cities.
"The current appraisal system, which only measures some major pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, cannot reflect the true picture," said Chai.