Two-thirds of China’s cities fail in air quality

Two-thirds of China’s cities fail in air quality

BEIJING - Associated Press
Two-thirds of China’s cities fail in air quality

Buildings are obscured by haze in Beijing, China in this Mar. 2 photo. AP photo

Two-thirds of China’s cities currently fail to meet stricter air quality standards that the government wants to phase in over four years to combat notoriously smoggy skies, a senior Chinese environmental official said on Mar. 2.

The State Council, China’s Cabinet, on Feb. 29 issued new limits on pollutants to go into effect nationwide by 2016. It also said major cities must launch programs this year to regularly monitor additional kinds of pollutants for the first time, including fine particles associated with health problems.

Vice Minister of Environmental Protection Wu Xiaoqing said on Mar. 2 that the government estimates that two-thirds of Chinese cities currently do not meet the new standards, saying efforts to improve urban air quality will be “very hard work.” “Our task of air pollution control is huge,” Wu said.

The government revised its air quality standards in response to public pressure over pollution and the lack of thorough information about air quality in China. Demands in Beijing for greater government accountability on air quality were fueled in recent months in part by a Twitter feed set up by the U.S. Embassy giving hourly updates on air quality as measured on the facility’s roof.

Wu said the government plans to set up 1,500 new air monitoring stations around the country.
“We also want to build up public confidence in the data we provide in order to better serve the public,” Wu said.

The new Chinese standards require concentrations of fine particulate matter called PM2.5 to be kept below daily averages of 75 micrograms per cubic meter more than twice as lenient as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard of 35 micrograms.

China, environment, pollution