Local authorities may have turned blind eye to illegal operations
In snap inspections on factories and other premises in and around Beijing and Tianjin, China's top environmental authority found that many were operating illegally by failing to adhere to strict environmental regulations.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), working with environmental protection bureaus in Beijing, Tianjin as well as Hebei and Shanxi provinces, inspected 869 factories and institutions from Wednesday to Saturday, after the annual two sessions ended in Beijing, news site yicai.com reported Sunday.
It found more than 200 environmental violations among the inspection sites, including excessive discharge of pollutants, failure to install necessary equipment and falsifying monitoring data.
The report also suggested that some local governments had turned a blind eye to these violations.
Zou Ji, deputy director of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, told the Global Times that enforcing standards on these small industries is difficult as they are scattered around, and it is not cost effective to make them greener.
"These companies also can't afford to install equipment to discharge the pollutants properly," Zou said.
Beijing's air pollution emergency response office issued a blue alert for heavy air pollution Sunday, three days after the end of the two sessions, the Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday.
The task of making Beijing's air clean is especially difficult. The density of pollutants in the air is caused by both emissions and climate conditions; pollution from emissions in southern Hebei can reach Beijing in hours with north-bound winds, and there are 2,370 such sources of emissions in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, Minister of Environmental Protection Chen Jining said on March 10 on the sidelines of the sessions of the National People's Congress in Beijing.
However, during the two sessions, air quality in Beijing was good, China Youth Daily reported.
A research group from Peking University issued a report on Friday, saying that Beijing takes special measures when it welcomes big events, such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in 2014, to ensure good air quality, yicai.com said. These measures include the temporary shut-down of factories in neighboring cities and traffic control.
Chen said that in the past three years, the number of days with good air quality increased in major metropolitan areas, including the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta. The PM2.5 density in these regions, except Beijing, was reduced by more than 30 percent in 2016 compared with that of 2013, he said.
"We are facing more difficult conditions in China, such as an energy structure with coal and fossil fuel as the main sources and the fast-growing ownership of vehicles," Chen said, compared with developed countries.