Wu Xiaoqing(left), vice minister of environmental protection at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office on Friday. Photo: Xinhua
About two thirds of Chinese cities can not meet strict new air quality standards, posing more challenges for the nation in coping with air pollution, said Wu Xiaoqing, vice minister of environmental protection at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office on Friday.
Wu made the comment following the passing, on Wednesday, of new standards by the State Council. The updated regulations require cities to provide readings for ozone and PM 2.5, small particulates that are damaging to human health, and impose stricter limits on the already measured PM 10, larger but still dangerous particulates.
"Failing to meet the revised air quality standards does not indicate the air quality has deteriorated, but is the result of stricter measurements," said Wu.
Zhou Rong, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace, told the Global Times that the new measures show the urgency of implementing stringent standards nationwide to match growing public demands over air quality.
"The use of the PM 2.5 index is closer to people's actual feelings over air quality," said Zhou, adding that the tougher requirements can also prompt local government officials to outline better air quality schemes.
As scheduled by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, over 1,500 air quality monitoring stations will initially be built at a cost of more than 2 billion yuan ($317.6 million), according to Wu.
Another 100 million yuan will be spent every year afterwards to expand and maintain the system.
A total of 56 cities in China are currently able to monitor the PM 2.5 or ozone indexes, and 50 of them can measure both, said Wu, adding that there are already 169 sets of PM 2.5 monitoring facilities available nationwide.
Wu applauded for the currently prevailing grass-roots monitoring of the PM 2.5 index, saying that it could urge them to offer more scientific statistics for the public.
Wu also said the ministry is working on a five-year plan to double efforts to reduce air pollutants by strengthening controls over coal burning and vehicle exhausts to better prevent and control air pollution in key regions, including the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta.
However, Zhou stated that implementing stricter monitoring standards could not deal with the roots of the problem.
"Restricting the upstream consumption of energy resources, especially coal, a major source of air pollutants, is more significant than downstream control of air pollution," said Zhou.