SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s top coal-producing province of Shanxi has reprimanded seven of its cities after a spike in air pollution in the first five months of 2019, the country’s environment ministry said in a notice late Thursday.
China is in the sixth year of a war on pollution aimed at allaying public unrest about the state of the country’s skies, rivers and soil by raising industrial standards, cutting coal consumption and improving law enforcement.
The provincial environmental protection agency summoned representatives from the governments of Shuozhou, Datong, Taiyuan, Changzhi, Jincheng, Xinzhou and Luliang and told them to show “a sense of shame” and an “urgency that will not sit, will not sleep and will not wait”, the notice said.
All seven cities saw an increase in air pollution during January-May. Readings assessed showed an average concentration of hazardous airborne particles - known as PM2.5 - up by as much as 14.8% in Taiyuan, the provincial capital, and by 16.3% in Shuozhou.
Luliang, a major coal-producing city, was also blamed for failing to curb water pollution during the period.
China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) has asserted it will not relax its restrictions on industries, despite a trade spat with the United States and a slowdown in the economy.
However, Environment Minister Li Ganjie has repeatedly warned some regions for using economic problems as an excuse to loosen their grip on pollution.
The MEE has already told off the mayors of six cities after they failed to meet their smog targets over winter, saying one city in Hebei had “significantly reduced its focus”.
According to the latest data, average rates of PM2.5 in 337 cities nationwide stood at 44 micrograms per cubic metre in the first five months of the year, unchanged from 2018, with 118 cities reaching the national standard of 35 micrograms or below.
However, the major smog-prone regions of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and the Fenwei Plain saw an average PM2.5 climb by 5.9% and 7.4% respectively over the period.
According to Reuters calculations, only nine of the 39 cities in the two regions managed to meet their air quality targets last winter, despite imposing special restrictions on industry, coal use and traffic over the period.
Reporting by David Stanway, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips