Air pollution reduces in east China, moves to west

Beijing, April 20 (IANS) Air pollution has reduced in east China in the first quarter of this year as compared to the same period during the previous year, but is now moving towards the west of the country, according to a Greenpeace report on Wednesday.

In the first few months, “significant improvements” were recorded in average air quality of 362 cities surveyed by Greenpeace, especially in eastern China where major cities, including Beijing and Shanghai are located.

However, more than 85 percent of the cities still do not comply with national standards — and fall below international standards — and in central and western areas of the country the situation has worsened, Efe news reported.

The improvement in the east is attributed to pilot projects by the government, launched to reduce air pollution in the deltas of Yangtze and Pearl rivers, and in the northern region of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, Dong Liansai, head of Greenpeace’s Climate and Energy Campaign explained to EFE.

“The pilot projects are showing results. Now it is time to learn from them and expand their implementation across the country to ensure clean air for all,” he said.

The improvement has been achieved partly due to the new limits set on polluting industries, including coal, a government measure which, unwittingly, has “encouraged” this sector to move their investment to central and western regions of the country where such controls are much more lax said Greenpeace, and urged the “Chinese government to introduce a national coal consumption cap.”

The study by Greenpeace shows that while air quality in Beijing and Shanghai have improved 27 and 12 percent respectively, pollution has increased by 20.1 percent in 69 cities in western and central China.

The five cities with the highest concentration of PM2.5 particles — the smallest and more harmful to health because they can penetrate directly into the lungs — in the first quarter of this year are in the western region of Xinjiang.

The study corroborates Dong’s warning last year that limits applied in eastern regions would simply cause the problem to move out to other areas rather than provide a solution.

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