China has made remarkable strides in containing and preventing air pollution over the past five years, according to Li Ganjie, minister of environmental protection.
The concentrations of the PM10 and PM2.5, both toxic particulates that harm human health, in almost all of the major cities on the mainland have fallen by considerable margins since September 2013, when the Chinese government published a regulation on air pollution, Li told a news conference in Beijing on Saturday afternoon on the sidelines of the ongoing 13th National People"s Congress.
"The average concentration of PM10 in 338 major cities has decreased by 22.7 percent since then, while the concentration of PM2.5 has shrunk by 39.6 percent in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and 34.3 percent in the Yangtze River Delta, as well as 27.7 percent in the Pearl River Delta," he said.
The government has spared no effort in improving the air quality, integrating its environmental endeavors with efforts to upgrade the manufacturing, power and transportation industries, the minister noted.
He quotes figures in this year"s Government Work Report submitted to national legislators as saying that the country has reduced the output of steel by more than 170 million metric tons and coal by at least 800 million tons over the past five years.
During the same period, more than 200,000 boilers, which burned coal and were used for residents’ heating or industrial purposes, were closed, while about 20 million cars that had become disqualified due to emission levels were taken off the road, according to the minister.
More than 4.7 million households in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and neighboring cities that used to consume coal for heating or cooking now have begun to use electric or natural gas heaters, he added.
Li said the central government invested 63.3 billion yuan ($10 billion) in the fight against air pollution over the last five years.
In addition, a series of inspection mechanisms has been devised and are in place to boost supervision over local authorities’ environmental protection performance. Officials failing to fulfill their responsibilities will be held accountable.
Despite all of these achievements, China still faces a severe situation in its air quality and is aware that a long road lies ahead before the air becomes clean enough, Li said, adding his ministry is making plans for the next three years.