People wearing facemasks ride their bikes on a polluted day in Beijing on April 2, 2018. (FRED DUFOUR / AFP)
The country's top environmental watchdog will dispatch about 18,000 law enforcement officers to conduct air pollution control inspections in three key areas starting on Monday.
Last year, the Ministry of Environmental Protection - which has since been incorporated into the Ministry of Ecology and Environment - sent 5,600 law enforcement officers to 28 major cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region to inspect air pollution control work.
Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region is still the area with the worst air quality in the country
This year, the inspection, dubbed "Blue Sky Protection Campaign", will be extended to the Yangtze River Delta and the Fenhe and Weihe plains in Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces, respectively. The campaign is scheduled to last until the end of April 2019.
It was launched based on the fact that some areas are still troubled by heavy pollution, despite continued improvement in air quality in key regions, according to the ministry's environmental supervision and inspection bureau.
"Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region is still the area with the worst air quality in the country," the bureau said in a statement. "Hebei, Shanxi, Henan and Shandong provinces and Tianjin saw no more than 60 percent of days last year with fairly good air quality. And the situation in the Fenhe and Weihe river valleys is deteriorating, not improving."
The bureau said the campaign will have 12 areas of focus, including poorly managed - and polluting - small enterprises, industrial boilers, surface mines and transportation reform.
While inspection teams will be dispatched to 28 designated cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and 11 cities in the Fenhe and Weihe river valleys regularly, inspections in the Yangtze River Delta area will be irregular, the bureau said.
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It said all the inspectors in the campaign are from local environmental departments or ones affiliated with the ministry. The large-scale inspection by a body of the central government will help train law enforcement officers and offer them opportunities to communicate with each other to improve their capabilities.
"The Blue Sky Protection Campaign is the most important priority in pollution control work," said Li Ganjie, minister of ecology and environment, in a video conference held on Friday to launch the inspection.
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He also vowed to make four "obvious" achievements: to further decrease the concentration of PM2.5 (tiny particles measuring 2.5 microns in diameter or less), to decrease the number of days with heavy air pollution, to improve the air environment and to make the public happier with more blue skies.
In addition to the air pollution control campaign, the ministry will launch at least six more central environmental inspections that will cover black, foul-smelling bodies of water in urban areas; the protection of water sources; and Yangtze River protection and restoration.
"The central inspections, which target key regions, fields and problems, represent a new long-term mechanism rather than a short-term action," said Li, adding that the purpose of the inspections is to help local governments identify environmental problems and solve them.
He also asked inspectors to strictly observe the law. The ministry has publicized email and mailing addresses to accept reports from the general public about violations of law and discipline.
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