Complaints about air pollution in China's capital double in five months

BEIJING Sat Jun 14, 2014 3:00am EDT

Cars drive on the Three Ring Road amid the heavy haze in Beijing February 26, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Cars drive on the Three Ring Road amid the heavy haze in Beijing February 26, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Complaints about air pollution in the Chinese capital of Beijing more than doubled in the first five months of 2014, the city environment authority said, a sign of rising public anger about the cost of rapid economic growth.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Bureau revealed late on Friday that 12,599 formal complaints about smog were lodged by members of the public from January to May, 124 percent higher than the same period of last year.

Beijing, routinely shrouded in hazardous smog, has been on the front line of a "war against pollution" declared by Premier Li Keqiang in March in a bid to head off growing discontent about the state of the country's skies, rivers and soil.

Smog was involved in 72.6 percent of the total number of environment-related complaints submitted to the Beijing authorities from January to May, the environmental bureau said.

In a bid to defuse potential sources of unrest, China's leaders have been desperate to show they are firmly on the side of the public in the battle against pollution, setting up hotlines, task forces and rapid response teams, and encouraging the public to participate in campaigns against violators.

A newly amended environmental law also stipulates that authorities must ensure transparency and accountability, and also promises to improve access to the court system for people harmed by pollution.

In a separate notice, the Beijing environmental bureau said as many as 114 firms had been punished this month after its latest week-long campaign targeting environmental violations in the catering, car manufacturing and car repair sectors.

It said the firms were ordered to pay a total of 2.45 million yuan ($394,600) in fines.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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