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Pollution fight gets a sharper focus

By Zheng Jinran (China Daily)

Updated: 2016-03-12 04:12:46


Pollution fight gets a sharper focus

China has established three new departments under the Ministry of Environmental Protection to target air, water and soil pollution to ensure control targets will be met in the coming years.

The central government approved a structural reform of the ministry in February 2015, including the elimination of two departments — pollution prevention and control, and pollutants emission control — as the three new ones were set up, Chen Jining, environmental minister, said on Friday.

It is the first time that the ministry confirmed the structural change, which aims to ensure more focused efforts to improve air, soil and water quality.

"The reform will help streamline the work process and improve efficiency," Chen said, without giving details, at a news conference.

"It's an important step to realize the pollution control goals listed in the country's next five-year development plan," Chen added.

The draft outline of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), which is being reviewed by the national legislators and is scheduled to be put to a vote on March 16, sets specific goals for reducing pollution, especially air pollution, since smog has frequently hit many cities in recent years and has become a top public concern.

By the end of 2020, the number of days with good air quality in 338 of China's cities will exceed 80 percent, according to the draft plan.

Chen said China is undergoing a tough process in air pollution control. Although progress has been made, whether there is a blue sky still to some extent depends on weather conditions.

The three spells of severe smog that hit Beijing in December were mainly the result of pollution not dissipating due to windless conditions and high humidity.

But China has seen the average concentration of PM2.5 — hazardous particulate matter with diameter of less than 2.5 microns that can penetrate the lungs — decline by 14.1 percent year-on-year in its cities, according to official data.

"We will continue the efforts until we solve the problem," he said.

Chen said that to achieve the goal, China will further promote the clean use of coal, since the country's air quality problems are mainly caused by an energy structure that favors coal use.

Besides boosting low-emissions facilities for coal-fired power plants that rival the emissions of gas-fired plants, China is also eyeing a reduction in emissions from household bulk coal, he said.

Emissions from one metric ton of bulk coal are equivalent to those from five to 10 metric tons of coal burned in power plants.

"Emissions from bulk coal contributed a lot to the heavy smog last winter," the minister said.