BEIJING Feb 13 China is considering forcing
steel and aluminium producers to cut more output, banning coal
in one of the country's top ports and shutting some fertiliser
and drug plants as Beijing intensifies its war on smog, a draft
policy document shows.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) has proposed
the measures in a draft policy document seen by Reuters. If
implemented, they would be some of the most radical steps so far
to tackle air quality in the country's most polluted cities.
The move comes after China's northeast has battled some of
the worst pollution in years as emissions from heavy industry,
coal burning in winter and increased transport have left major
cities including Beijing blanketed in thick smog.
The document outlines plans to cut steel and fertiliser
capacity by at least half and aluminium capacity by at least 30
percent in 28 cities across five regions during the winter
heating season, which normally lasts from late November to late
By July, it would stop Tianjin, one of the nation's busiest
ports, handling coal, with shipments diverted to Tangshan, 130
kms (80 miles) to the north. Last year, the port accounted for
17 percent of China's coal imports.
By September, ports in Hebei province would not be allowed
to use trucks to carry coal from railways to ships.
A source with direct knowledge of the proposal said the
environmental watchdog has distributed the draft to seek opinion
from relevant local governments and companies.
The Ministry declined to comment on the draft. The Ministry
of Transportation did not respond to requests for comment.
It's not known when the Ministry expects to decide on
whether to implement the plan, one of the most extreme since the
government launched its offensive on pollution three years ago.
If introduced, the steps would likely add further fuel to
rallies in aluminium, steel and coal prices, which have been
buoyed by China's efforts to shut excess capacity and clean up
Still, prolonged cuts in capacity will reignite worries
about demand for raw materials like iron ore.
They will also cause major upheaval for utilities, miners
and traders, as they seek alternative routes for their coal.
The five regions affected are Beijing, the port city of
Tianjin and the neighbouring province of Hebei, as well as
Shandong, Shanxi and Henan.
Located along China's east coast, they are some of the top
steel and coal producing regions, as well as among the most
populated and most plagued by smog.
The Ministry also plans to close pesticide and
pharmaceutical factories and fertiliser plants that use urea
unless the chemicals and drugs are critically needed for the
population, according to the document.
The news comes as the country's northern regions braces for
more heavy smog this week. On Monday, state media reported
Chinese cities that sit on three pollution "highways" have been
told to coordinate efforts to reduce emissions.
(Reporting by Meng Meng and Josephine Mason; Editing by Richard