China starts first round of intensified anti-pollution checks

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s environment ministry has deployed nearly 1,000 inspectors to 25 cities and provinces across the country for its first round of “intensified anti-pollution inspections”.

A woman wearing a face mask rides a bicycle on a bridge in front of the financial district of Pudong, which is covered in smog, during a polluted day in Shanghai, China November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

The checks will focus on 26 environmental aspects, including potable water protection, solid waste imports, urban sewage renovation and water pollution improvement alongside Yangtze River regions.

A total of 981 inspectors were sent to key anti-pollution regions such as Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Shanxi-Shaanxi-Henan (known as Fenwei plain) and Yangtze River Delta regions, according to a statement published on the website of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) earlier this week.

That came as the ruling Communist Party last year vowed to impose limits on the number of central government inspection campaigns directed at local authorities.

The environment ministry has previously launched several rounds of inspections in 27 different forms.

The intensified checks starts from May 15 and will run until May 25, with an aim to help local authorities to identify problems that require improvement. The same group of inspectors will revisit the regions between September and October to check if the problems have been solved.

“Inspectors will reduce meetings and paper works during the intensified checks, in order to improve efficiency and avoid repeatedly disturbing normal work of local authorities,” said Cao Liping, director of ecological regulation enforcement bureau at the MEE, at its monthly news briefing in April.

Meanwhile, the MEE has also carried out a fresh round of checks on air pollution from May 8, focusing on 39 cities in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and Fenwei plain.

A majority of the 39 cities failed to meet their anti-smog targets over the past winter.

“We will hold accountability of local officials in the region missing the targets and send inspectors and experts to help them improve air quality,” said Liu Youbin, MEE spokesman, at the news briefing.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and Shivani Singh; editing by Gopakumar Warrier