SHANGHAI Oct 15 China's Hebei province, the
country's biggest steelmaking region, has imposed what it calls
"special emission restrictions" on local mills as part of its
war on smog, according to a policy document.
Local steel enterprises will have until Sept. 1, 2017, to
ensure their facilities comply with tough new standards for
sulphur dioxide and other major sources of air pollution, the
local environmental protection bureau said in a notice.
Hebei is responsible for nearly a quarter of China's total
national steel output. It was the location of seven of China's
10 smoggiest cities last year and is a major source of air
pollution in China's capital, Beijing.
The province has pledged to shut 60 million tonnes of crude
steelmaking capacity and 40 million tonnes of coal production
capacity from 2014 to 2017.
Last year, steel production in Hebei rose 1.3 percent on the
year to 188.3 million tonnes, though total capacity remains much
higher. Coal output in the province fell 5.4 percent to 82.2
According to a notice issued by the local environmental
protection bureau on Friday, 41 million tonnes of steel capacity
and 27 million tonnes of coal capacity have already been closed.
The province, one of the main fronts in a "war on pollution"
declared by Premier Li Keqiang in 2014, has been under pressure
to crack down on "backward" production capacity and firms that
break environmental rules.
It was heavily criticised by the Ministry of Environmental
Protection (MEP) earlier this year after an inspection tour
revealed that local firms had illegally expanded production
capacity and engaged in "fraudulent practices" aimed at
Hebei has since launched a campaign against local steel and
coal producers, and the provincial government said last week it
had uncovered 1,173 illegal projects in the steel sector,
involving 93 companies.
According to MEP data, average concentration levels of
PM2.5, a major smog indicator, fell 17.1 percent to 58
micrograms per cubic metre in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region
over the first three quarters of 2016.
However, six of the 10 most polluted cities for that period
were still in Hebei province, the ministry said on Thursday.
China's National Meteorological Center (NMC) issued a yellow
smog alert for Beijing and parts of Hebei on Saturday, and urged
residents to take protective measures.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Tom Hogue)