China sends government teams to investigate pollution

BEIJING Sun Feb 23, 2014 3:52am EST

1 of 5. A woman covers her nose and mouth with her scarf amid the heavy haze in Beijing February 22, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China has sent teams of investigators to parts of the country worst hit by air pollution as part of efforts to stop the heavy smog engulfing about 15 percent of the country, including Beijing.

Twelve teams of inspectors will head to the cities of Beijing, the nearby city of Tianjin and Hebei province to see how authorities are responding to the worst air pollution in months, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Sunday.

The inspectors will visit construction sites and factories producing steel, glass, cement and coal products, the ministry said. Those found to be violating production standards will be publicly identified.

Authorities have issued innumerable orders and policies to try and clean up the environment, investing in projects to fight pollution and empowering courts to mete out stiff penalties. But enforcement has been patchy at the local level, where authorities often rely on taxes paid by polluting industries.

In Beijing, which has been shrouded in smoky, white smog for a week, authorities raised the air pollution alert system to "orange" for the first time on Friday after drawing public fire for its initial ineffective response.

The "orange" level, the second-highest level of a four-tier system, advises schools to cancel sports classes.

Other emergency measures include cutting private use of cars by about a fifth in Shijiazhuang, a city near Beijing, state news agency Xinhua said. Authorities also banned barbecues and halted construction work.

It is not uncommon for air pollution in parts of China to breach levels considered by some experts to be hazardous. That has drawn much public ire and is a worry for China's government, which fears any discontent that might compromise stability.

"The Beijing smog has lasted for so many days. I feel like I have not seen the sun in a long time," said one user of Weibo, China's version of Twitter. "O environment, are you going to let people live or not?"

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing and Li Hui; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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Comments (1)
thelaowai wrote:
Building transparency and increasing the ability of the Chinese Fed to act as legitimate guardians of the environment is the only way to start the process of environmental protection. Local industry and local government too often do what they want when they want based on gray market bribery.

Reforming the tax code is also imperative. Since local governments are over-saddled with debt and unable to raise legal funds except through coercive property seizure and sale scams.

Local politicians look at the economies they shepherd and think of it as a get rich quick scheme. They all want to extract as much wealth from their jurisdiction as fast as possible by any means necessary.

A top down aggressive reform approach is necessary. If the standing council can’t make the changes needed to maintain stability and reform the economy (including environmental degradation), the outcome for the Chinese people will be very unfortunate. Smog in Beijing and their inability to control pollution even in the capital is a perfect baseline measurement tool for the health of the socioeconomic system.

Feb 23, 2014 11:33pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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