Caixin
Oct 17, 2016 07:20 PM

Beijing Fails to Implement Anti-Pollution Measures, MEP says

(Beijing) — The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) has censured regulators in several districts across Beijing for failing to act to control air pollution.

The MEP action came after the capital was hit by a new bout of smog over the past few days.

In a statement released Sunday, the MEP said that it found at least 10 construction sites, including five in Fangshan district and three in Fengtai district, that violated dust-control rules by continuing to operate even as the air quality continued to deteriorate on Saturday.

During a field inspection of four districts on Sunday, ministry investigators found authorities had also failed to take action against farmers who were burning crop waste in 10 separate locations Saturday.

Beijing residents choked on Friday as pollution levels soared to unsafe levels, prompting authorities to issue a yellow warning, the third-worst on a four-tier color-coded air quality rating system.

Air quality in the capital continued to deteriorate late Friday as levels of PM2.5 — particles in the air 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter — rose to 350 milligrams per cubic meter of air. Pollution levels remained high until early Sunday.

When the air quality is rated as severely polluted, local authorities are required to ensure all construction sites stop operating to reduce dust levels, according to rules introduced in 2014.

Under government air quality regulations, local authorities are also required to run emission tests on vehicles passing through or entering the city to identify vehicles with substandard emissions.

However, over half of all heavy vehicles inspected at checkpoints across the city on Saturday failed to meet national emission standards. According to one ministry study, a vehicle that fails national emission tests could emit as many pollutants as up to 200 new family sedans.

About 300,000 vehicles from other regions, a third of which are heavy vehicles, enter Beijing every day, MEP statistics show.

Vehicle emissions and pollutants carried into Beijing were the main cause of smog affecting Beijing, Baoding and Shijiazhuang in the northern province of Hebei, said Chai Fahe, a vice director at the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.

The level of airborne PM10 particulates were significantly higher than in previous bouts of smog, Chai said, indicating that it was largely a result of dust and pollutants from environmentally substandard vehicles.

At least 500,000 of Beijing's 5.7 million vehicles are at least 10 years old. Pollution generated by older vehicles make up 40 percent of the total carbon emissions from the city's motor vehicles, according to MEP data.

The ministry said it will strengthen inspections across Beijing, Hebei province and Tianjin and hold to account officials who fail to enforce anti-pollution regulations.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (rongdeli@caixin.com); editor Calum Gordon (calum@caixin.com)

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