BEIJING – Greenpeace said on Thursday the recent improvement in air quality in the northern part of China where the capital is located has come at the detriment of other areas where industry has moved and where pollution increased in 2017.
“NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) levels, an indicator of fossil-fuel burning, fell an average of 10 percent in Beijing, Tianjin and 26 surrounding cities but increased by approximately 6 percent in the rest of the country in the fourth quarter. This reflects the shift of industrial output outside the 28 cities after the winter action plan went into effect,” the organization said in a statement.
In the whole of the country, the concentration of PM2.5 particles in the air, the most toxic and dangerous to the health as they can enter the lungs directly, “fell just 4.5 percent nationwide in 2017, the lowest rate since the start of China’s ‘war on pollution’,” Greenpeace said.
In the first three quarters of 2017, the volume of PM2.5 particles increased by 6 percent in Beijing, Tianjin and 25 other cities.
In response to this rise, Beijing in October 2017 implemented a six-month plan that managed to reduce PM2.5 particle levels by 33.1 percent in these areas in the last quarter of the same year as compared to the same period in 2016.
The problem, according to Greenpeace, is that “outside the scope of the regional action plan, air pollution in some provinces intensified in 2017.”
The annual average PM2.5 particle concentration in Heilongjiang (northernmost province), Anhui and Jiangxi (center) and Guangdong (south) grew in 2017 by 10.4 percent, 7.4 percent, 4 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively, “as output in polluting industries such as metals and coal-fired power surged.”
In addition, the levels of ozone pollution, the cause of “lung damage, symptoms in asthma patients, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, are on the rise” with an increase of 10 percent year-on-year in the summer across China.
Greenpeace, which acknowledged that the authorities’ efforts have reduced pollution in general and the inherent health risks, called on the government to ensure the second phase of the plan is as ambitious as the first and to include targets for ozone reduction.