May 12, 2017 / 12:06 AM / 3 years ago

China's Hebei province admits more lapses in pollution, overcapacity fight

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s Hebei province is not properly enforcing policies to cut pollution or reduce chronic overcapacity in major industrial sectors like steel and coal, the environmental bureau said.

Residential buildings under construction are pictured on a polluted day after the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays on the outskirts of Langfang, Hebei province, China, February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Hebei produces more steel a year than the whole of the European Union, and it aims to cut total annual production capacity to less than 200 million tonnes by the end of the decade, down from 286 million tonnes in 2013.

However, despite plans to shed 60 million tonnes of capacity over the 2013-2017 period, Hebei actually saw production increase in 2016.

The northern province, one of China’s most polluted regions, has launched a campaign to hold officials accountable for enforcing environmental policies and to tackle “grass roots micro-corruption”.

The provincial environmental protection bureau said in a statement late on Thursday it has launched its own campaign to root out “ineffective mobilization” by officials in the battle against pollution.

One of the key problems was the failure to implement industry overcapacity rules, it said.

During campaigns to cut excessive steel, iron, cement, glass, coking coal and coal capacity, some illegal plants were suspended but not shut down, allowing dead facilities to spring back to life or relocate, it said.

Also, shuttered “zombie” firms did not have their power or water supplies cut off or their facilities demolished, allowing them to re-open, it said.

Policies aimed at converting villages from coal to gas or electricity were not being implemented properly or according to schedule.

Hebei surrounds Beijing and is estimated to be the source of about a third of the particulate matter drifting over Beijing.

As the province strives to meet 2017 air quality targets, it has launched a series of campaigns aimed at punishing polluters and “normalizing compliance”.

The war on pollution in Hebei has also come amid broader efforts to boost “discipline” and crack down on graft in the province.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Stephen Coates

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