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Hebei springs to action against smog

By Zhang Yu And Wang Wei In Shi Jiazhuang (China Daily) Updated: 2016-01-09 08:05

Hebei will continue to curb the development of highly polluting industries such as steel and cement to achieve by 2020 a 40 percent reduction in PM2.5 concentration from the 2013 levels.

That will reduce the average concentration of PM 2.5 - airborne particles of less than 2.5 microns in diameter that are harmful to health - to 64.8 micrograms per cubic meter of air, according to the provincial government work report released on Friday, when the 2016 Hebei Provincial People's Congress started.

With the PM 2.5 reduction, severely air-polluted cities in the province are expected fall off the list of China's 10 smoggiest cities.

Hebei is known for its severe air pollution. Of its 11 cities, seven - Baoding, Xingtai, Tangshan, Hengshui, Handan, Shijiazhuang and Langfang - have ranked among the 10 worst-polluted cities in China in recent years.

In 2013, the province started to monitor air quality and release real-time readings of pollutants, mainly PM 2.5. At that time, the average PM2.5 concentration was 108 micrograms per cubic meter.

In winter, real-time readings always exceeded 500 or higher. Hebei has vowed to improve its air quality and has been making great efforts to reduce air pollution.

During the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-15), Hebei spent 24 billion yuan ($3.6 billion) to address the problem.

The province cut its capacity for iron production by 33.9 million metric tons; cement by 41.1 million tons and plate glass by 37.2 million weight boxes. It reduced its coal consumption by 27 million tons.

Hebei also took 1.47 million high-emission and outdated vehicles off the road, scrapped 21,000 coal-burning boilers and closed 505 open-pit mines, all of which were polluting the air.

These efforts helped reduce the average PM2.5 concentration by 28.7 percent from 2013 levels.

But they also hit the provincial economy. According to Hebei Governor Zhang Qingwei, measures adopted to improve the air lowered the province's GDP growth rate by about 0.9 percent.

Hebei's GDP last year was 3 trillion yuan ($454.89 billion), up 6.8 percent from 2014. "Hebei will carry out the strictest environmental protection procedures over the next five years," Zhang said.

For 2016, iron capacity will be cut by 10 million tons, steel by 8 million, cement by 1.5 million and plate glass by 6 million weight boxes, Zhang said.

Coal consumption will be reduced by 5 million tons this year.

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