Vehicles commute along a road during unusually high levels of dust in Beijing on March 28, 2018. (WANG ZHAO / AFP)
Beijing, Tianjin and surrounding areas dramatically exceeded their air pollution reduction targets through the fall and winter months, while the mayors of three cities were summoned after failing to meet their own targets, according to China's top environmental authority.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment released the performance of 28 major cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region on Thursday, showing PM2.5 levels from October to March.
The average concentration of PM2.5 in 28 cities shrank to 78 micrograms per cubic meter, a year-on-year decrease of 25 percent. And the number of days with heavy pollution was reduced by 55.4 percent. The target for both the reduction of PM2.5 and number of days of heavy air pollution was 15 percent.
The goals were set by the former ministry of environmental protection in October in 2017.
PM2.5 refers to dangerous particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns that can enter the bloodstream via the lungs.
The average concentration of PM2.5 in 28 cities shrank to 78 micrograms per cubic meter, a year-on-year decrease of 25 percent. The number of days with heavy pollution was reduced by 55.4 percent
During the six months, Beijing, Langfang, Hebei province, and Tianjin performed best in cutting the concentration of PM2.5.
Hebei's Handan, and Jincheng and Yangquan in Shanxi province, were the worst of the 28 cities and failed to meet their own smog-fighting targets.
Their mayors were summoned to a meeting at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment in Beijing on Thursday and ordered to account for their poor results.
Jincheng was the only city that failed on both metrics－reducing particulates and fewer days with heavy pollution. During the six-month period, its average concentration of PM2.5 fell by 3.7 percent. Its target was 10 percent.
Meanwhile, 1,819 environmental problems of various kinds were found in Jincheng in the period, the most among the 28 cities. In addition, some steel and foundry companies in Jincheng did not halt production as required on heavily polluted days.
Handan's average PM2.5 concentration decreased by 12.2 percent. Its goal was 15 percent.
According to the ministry, Handan was summoned over its poor rectification effort in August. But during this campaign, 61 obvious environmental problems were noticed in the city, including six cases of excessive emissions, two of falsifying online monitoring data and 11 of missing pollution control equipment.
Yangquan was found to be sluggish on cutting air pollution. Its average PM2.5 concentration rose by more than 30 percent in the year's first quarter, compared with 2017's last quarter. It also had serious dust pollution and other random emissions.
The ministry ordered the three cities to make remediation plans within 20 work days and to immediately stop approving new projects that would pollute the air.
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The three mayors all pledged to face up to the problem.
On Thursday, the ministry sent a letter to the provincial governments of Shandong, Shanxi and Henan, saying that they should hold officials at city and county level responsible for pollution on their watch, including deputy mayors and deputy county heads.
The ministry said a number of companies based in Shanxi, Shandong and Henan provinces failed to halt production on heavily polluted days in March.
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