China assails home of Terracotta Army for poor smog control

Cranes are seen above a construction site amid heavy fog in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Environment Ministry on Wednesday lambasted the northern city of Xian, best known as the home of the Terracotta Army, for its poor pollution control measures, including allowing the burning of trash and piles of leaves during thick smog.

Large swathes of northern China have been covered in bouts of choking smog in recent weeks, including the capital, Beijing, a problem that has defied repeated government vows to get tough.

The ministry, in a statement on its website, said Xian experienced two bouts of heavy smog this month, and it had sent inspectors to find out how the city was dealing with it.

The city was late in issuing smog alerts to the public, and on some occasions it did not increase the alert level despite spiralling pollution, the ministry said.

Some companies were unaware of what steps they were supposed to take during a smog alert and heavily polluting vehicles remained on the roads, it added.

There was also nobody taking charge of stopping outdoor burning of leaves or rubbish, the statement said.

In one part of the city, inspectors saw “think smoke rolling by” from the burning of leaves, it added.

Calls to the Xian government seeking comment went unanswered.

The ministry said it had already demanded the city take effective measures to avoid smog and issue better alerts.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie