BEIJING -- China's capital city and the nation's financial hub are stepping up measures to curb pollution as the meteorological agency warned of hazardous smog levels for a fourth day.
In Beijing, companies, construction sites, street vendors and vehicle owners who exceed stipulated emission limits will face fines and other penalties, according to a draft plan released by the city government on Jan. 18. Shanghai will phase out 500 polluting, hazardous and energy-intensive facilities, the city's Mayor Yang Xiong said Saturday.
President Xi Jinping has pledged to tackle pollution amid rising public concern that smog and environmental degradation are affecting the nation's health and the economy. The Ministry of Environmental Protection this month told all provinces and municipalities to cut air pollutants by as much as one quarter.
"This pollution is leading to much public worry," Liu Jigang, deputy director of the standing committee of the Beijing People's Congress, said in comments posted on the city government's website. Beijing's average reading of PM2.5, fine airborne particulates that pose the largest health risks, were more than 1.5 times higher than the national target of 35 last year, he said.
The city published a draft of a pollution prevention plan on Jan. 18 with new penalties, according to a Beijing Morning Post report yesterday. They include fines of 10,000 yuan ($1,653) to 100,000 yuan and possible closures for companies exceeding national or city emission limits. Owners of vehicles who exceed emission rules will face penalties of as much as 3,000 yuan, the newspaper said.
The National Meteorological Center issued a yellow alert for smog yesterday, the fourth straight day, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The warning covered areas in 10 provinces and municipalities including Shanghai and Tianjin, a coastal city neighboring Beijing.
At a meeting of the municipal people's congress yesterday, Shanghai's mayor said the city will retrofit power plants with anti-dust and denitration equipment, and accelerate the replacement of coal-fired boilers and furnaces.
The city will also implement its clean air action plan, and pay more attention to the treatment of PM2.5 particulate matter, Yang said.
Shanghai's government yesterday warned children and the elderly to avoid prolonged or heavy outdoor activities as PM2.5 readings hit six times the World Health Organization's recommended level of daily exposure.
The order was made as the city's environmental monitoring center said air quality readings signaled "heavy pollution." The level of PM2.5 pollutants was 157.2 micrograms per cubic meter, compared with WHO guidelines of exposure of no more than 25 over a 24-hour period.
Beijing and Shanghai have been told by the environmental protection ministry to cut PM2.5 average readings by 25 percent and 15 percent respectively by 2017.
Steel factories and thermal power plants in eastern China that provide real-time emissions data frequently exceed national standards, according to a study led by Beijing-based environmental group Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs released on Jan. 14.
China's smog will be tough to eradicate without addressing industrial coal pollution, according to Barbara Finamore, Asia director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington- based environmental organization.
"In the past year China has announced significant plans to cut pollution and increase transparency," Finamore said in e- mailed comments on Jan. 16. "Their challenge now is to put those plans into action fast because the public's patience is running out."
Xi said solving China's environmental issues needs "bigger steps and patience," Xinhua reported on Dec. 28, citing comments the president made during a visit to a power plant in Beijing. PM2.5 has generated heated discussion, Xinhua cited him as saying.