SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Air quality in the major Chinese manufacturing hub around the Yangtze River Delta worsened in the first four months of the year, largely because of a 20 percent surge in emissions in January, environment ministry data showed on Wednesday.
The region, which includes Shanghai, saw concentrations of PM2.5 - lung-damaging particles measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter - rise 1.9 percent from a year ago to hit an average of 55 micrograms per cubic meter over the period, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said in a statement.
Environmental groups have said they are worried that the government’s focus on smog in northern China has driven industrial production and pollution further south.
China is currently drawing up a new 2018-2020 action plan to further improve air quality after meeting its 2013-2017 targets.
The government aims to bring down national concentrations down to its “interim” standard of 35 micrograms by around 2035. Average PM2.5 concentrations in 338 cities across China stood at 39 micrograms in the first four months of 2018, unchanged from a year earlier.
January-April PM2.5 readings in the key smog control area of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei fell 18.8 percent on the year to 69 micrograms, nearly double the national standard.
Six of China’s 10 most polluted cities for the period are in Hebei province, China’s biggest steel producing region.
The capital Beijing said on Monday its pollution levels fell 22.4 percent from a year ago to 59 micrograms over January to April, though it saw readings rise 20.8 percent year-on-year in April alone.
A senior MEE official said last month that China had reached a “stalemate” when it comes to improving air quality, with smog abatement measures often counterbalanced by unfavorable weather conditions.
China President Xi Jinping promised in a speech on Saturday that the might of the Chinese Communist Party would be used to tackle the nation’s environmental problems, with the aim of achieving fundamental improvements by 2035.
Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Tom Hogue