July 11, 2018 / 7:25 AM / a month ago

China cabinet launches new group to tackle pollution around Beijing

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s cabinet has launched a new cross-ministerial leadership group that will help draw up plans to tackle pollution in smog-prone northern regions around the capital Beijing, it said in a notice on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: A plane flies in the polluted air above the airport fences in Beijing, China, February 22, 2012. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic/File Photo

The team will be headed by the vice-premier Han Zheng, with environment minister Li Ganjie, the mayors of Beijing and Tianjin and the governor of Hebei province serving as deputies.

The State Council statement said the new group would help create a “coordination mechanism” to tackle pollution in and around the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, which has been on the front line of China’s efforts to clean up its rivers, soil and skies.

The establishment of the new leadership group is also a sign that China’s war on pollution, now in its fifth year, has become too important to leave solely to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

Also on the panel will be China’s top energy official Nur Bekri, the deputy ministers of housing, finance and transportation, as well as senior regional officials from Shanxi, Shandong, Henan and Inner Mongolia.

China is in the middle of a program aimed at integrating Beijing with its neighbors Tianjin and Hebei, with the goal of easing income disparities and preventing “duplicated” development throughout the region.

The “coordinated development” plan was launched in 2014 and came in the wake of several politically embarrassing bouts of heavy smog in the Chinese capital, much of which was blamed on Hebei, the country’s biggest steel producing region.

China’s President Xi Jinping has strongly backed the integration efforts, and he also vowed in May this year to use the full might of the Communist Party to tackle longstanding environmental problems throughout the country.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Joseph Radford

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