Posts Tagged ‘air pollution’

India: Toxic Firecracker Haze After Festival of Lights in New Delhi in Annual “Brown Out” of Pollution

October 20, 2017

Reuters

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Air pollution in New Delhi hit 18 times the healthy limit on Friday under a thick, toxic haze after a night of fireworks to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali – despite a court-ordered ban on their sales.

Residents of the sprawling Indian capital, which already ranks among the world’s most polluted cities, complained of eyes watering and aggravated coughs as levels of PM 2.5, tiny particulate matter that reaches deep into the lungs, rose alarmingly.

Air quality usually worsens in New Delhi ahead of Diwali, the festival of lights, and the Supreme Court temporarily banned the sale of firecrackers, aiming to lessen the risk to health.

Two pedestrians on road in New Delhi engulfed in smog from last year
Authorities crack down on pollution in Delhi a few days before the festival of Diwali. AFP photo

But many still lit fireworks across the capital late into the night, either using old stocks or buying them from neighboring states.

Some environment activists said the court order was poorly enforced and firecrackers were still available to celebrate one of north India’s biggest festivals.

“Breathe nitrate and ammonia, home grown, hand made!” said environmentalist Vimlendu Jha in a Twitter post calling for city authorities to declare a public emergency.

An index of air quality had crossed the “hazardous” limit of 300 on Friday, the most severe level on a U.S. embassy scale of measurement which rates a reading of 50 as good and anything above that as a cause for concern.

Some parts of Delhi such as Mandir Marg showed an air quality reading of 941, close enough to the maximum level of 999 beyond which no readings are available. The index measures concentrations of PM 2.5, PM 10, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide among other indicators.

A hazardous level is an alert in which everyone may experience ill effects and are advised to stay indoors.

Apart from the firecracker ban, the Supreme Court also ordered diesel generators and a power plant to be shut down to try to reduce the pollution. The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority also ordered some brick kilns to close and a halt to the burning of rubbish.

Traffic on a street in Delhi amid heavy smog in November 2016
If pollution worsens, parking rates within the city could see a price hike. Getty Images

Dipankar Saha, a scientist at the government’s Central Pollution Control Board, said the still weather had also played a part in the toxic haze hanging over the city.

But pollution levels were better than at last year’s Diwali when crop burning in nearby states and firecrackers combined.

“It was going to be hard to beat last year’s level in any case,” he said.

Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani

See also:

India Diwali: Delhi acts against pollution menace

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-41662498

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Smog shrouds the Jama Masjid mosque in an old section of New Delhi, which has been called the most polluted city in the world.Credit Dominique Faget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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Delhi wakes up to better air quality than 2016, but pollution levels far from safe

Despite SC ban on sale of firecrackers in NCR, Delhi celebrated Diwali, dashing the hopes of cracker-free festivities

Overall, Delhi’s air quality index was calculated at 326 which is ‘very poor’, according to the National Air Quality Index (NAQI). Photo: Hindustan Times

Overall, Delhi’s air quality index was calculated at 326 which is ‘very poor’, according to the National Air Quality Index (NAQI). Photo: Hindustan Times

New Delhi: The jury is yet to decide whether Supreme Court’s ban on sale of crackers worked or not, but citizens of Delhi certainly woke up to better air quality on Friday—the morning after Diwali celebrations—compared to last year. However, the air quality was far from satisfactory even this year.

In 2016, Delhi resembled a gas chamber with particulate matter (PM)10 and PM2.5—the two deadliest components of air pollution—at over eight times the safe limit. This year has been slightly better, with PM10 and PM2.5 levels over two and half times the satisfactory level.

But disturbingly, PM10 and PM2.5 levels—during and after Diwali celebrations in some parts of the national capital—went as high as over 24 times and nearly 15 times, respectively, the satisfactory limit even this year.

According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) of the Union ministry of earth sciences, the levels of PM10 and PM2.5 in Delhi on Friday morning were at “poor” and “very poor” levels respectively. The level of PM10 was 256µg/m³ and PM2.5 was 154µg/m³—over two and half times the satisfactory levels.

The satisfactory limit of PM10 is 100µg/m³ and PM2.5 is 60µg/m³. These fine particles can settle deep in the lungs and be absorbed in the bloodstream, which can lead to respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer.

SAFAR had predicted a few days ago that there will not be a repeat of 2016 this year.

Overall, Delhi’s air quality index was calculated at 326 which is “very poor”, according to the National Air Quality Index (NAQI). As per SAFAR forecast, the air quality is expected to remain “very poor” on Saturday too with PM10 and PM2.5 levels expected to be at 358µg/m³ and 216µg/m³, respectively.

As per NAQI, very poor air quality “may cause respiratory illness to the people on prolonged exposure. Effect may be more pronounced in people with lung and heart diseases”. During such levels, people are advised to use pollution masks and avoid outdoor activities.

This, however, is still far better than 2016 when air quality levels were “severe” and were recorded over eight times the safe limit. In 2016, the day after Diwali, PM10 levels were recorded at severe level of 836.1µg/m³ (over eight times the safe limit) and PM2.5 at 624.2µg/m³ (nearly 10 times the safe limit).

If initial estimates are to go by, the pollution levels of the national capital a day after Diwali are better than 2015 results when PM2.5 levels were 428µg/m³—over seven times the safe limit.

Meanwhile, Delhi’s neighbourhood towns like Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad also did not see the air quality crossing “very poor” level. As per SAFAR, Gurgaon’s air quality index was at 341 (very poor level), while Noida’s air quality was “poor” with its AQI at 299.

Faridabad, as per data of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), too had “very poor” air quality level with AQI at 336. CPCB is India’s nodal pollution watchdog.

Meanwhile, even though the average levels as per SAFAR showed that pollution levels were not alarmingly high, the data recorded by air quality stations of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) showed that levels of PM10 and PM2.5 touched scary levels during and after Diwali celebrations.

Image result for Air pollution in New Delhi, Diwali, photos

For instance, Anand Vihar, which is one of the most polluted areas of the national capital, recorded PM10 at 2,402 µg/m³ early Friday morning (over 24 times the satisfactory limit) and PM2.5 at 626 µg/m³ (over 10 times the satisfactory limit).

Similarly, Mandir Marg area recorded PM10 levels at 1046µg/m³ (over 10 times the satisfactory limit) and PM2.5 at 355µg/m³ (nearly six times the satisfactory limit).

Another area, RK Puram, which regularly witnesses high levels of pollution, recorded PM10 at 1180µg/m³ (nearly 12 times the satisfactory limit) and PM2.5 at 878µg/m³ (nearly 15 times the satisfactory limit) on Thursday night. At 8am on Friday, the area recorded PM2.5 at 925µg/m³, which was nearly 15 times the satisfactory limit.

Now whether the low pollution levels—compared to last year—are due to the apex court’s ban on cracker sale leading to less people bursting crackers, awareness among people, favourable weather conditions or the graded response action plan (GRAP), it is yet to be finalized.

On 9 October, the Supreme Court had banned the sale of crackers in Delhi and NCR area.

smoke billows from two smoke stacks at the coal-based Badarpur Thermal Station in New Delhi.
Coal-powered thermal power plants meet most of India’s energy needs. AFP photo

After the high levels of pollution in Delhi-NCR area, SC had approved GRAP to tackle air pollution in Delhi and adjoining regions. The main objective was to institutionalize measures to tackle air pollution emergencies, giving a clear direction of steps to be taken by central and state authorities. GRAP was then notified by the Union environment ministry in January 2017. It classifies air pollution into four categories in terms of air quality—moderate to poor, very poor, severe, and very severe or emergency.

Moderate to poor is when particulate matter PM 2.5 and PM10 levels are between 61-90g/m3 (microgram per cubic metre) and 101-250g/m3 respectively; very poor is when PM2.5 and PM10 levels are between 121-250g/m3 and 351-430g/m3 respectively; severe is when ambient PM2.5 and PM10 levels are more than 250g/m3 and 430g/m3 respectively; and very severe or emergency is when PM2.5 or PM10 levels are above 300g/m3 and 500g/m3 respectively, and persist for 48 hours or more.

In the last few weeks, several aspects of GRAP have already been set in motion.

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New Delhi shuts power plant in fight against Diwali smog

October 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Last year, pollution levels were sky high in the days that followed Diwali, prompting the Supreme Court to warn of a public health emergency

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s environmental watchdog shut down a coal-fired power plant and banned the use of diesel generators in New Delhi as air quality plummeted in the world’s most polluted capital on Wednesday, the start of the Diwali festival.New Delhi experiences suffocating smog every year around Diwali, when farmers in north India burn the stubble left behind after the harvest and revellers let off smoke-spewing firecrackers.

The onset of winter aggravates the problem as the cooler air traps the pollutants, a phenomenon known as inversion.

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Board, a statutory body, made the ruling as levels of PM2.5 pollutants in the air reached around 200 micrograms per cubic metre — eight times the World Health Organization safe limit of 25.

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“Difficult situations demand tough responses and solutions and Delhi is faced with a really difficult situation each winter when air pollution levels spiral out of control,” said its chairman Bhure Lal in a statement.

The Board said the city’s Badarpur power plant, which has a capacity of around 700 megawatts, would be closed until March. The plant is due to shut down for good next July as India seeks to move away from heavily-polluting fossil fuels.

It also banned the use of the privately-owned diesel generators that many rich households rely on during India’s frequent power cuts.

The measures follow a temporary ban on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi introduced earlier this month by the Supreme Court to ease the pollution levels.

Last year, levels of PM2.5 — the fine particles linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease — soared to 778 in the days that followed Diwali, prompting the Supreme Court to warn of a public health emergency.

Levels of PM2.5 between 301 and 500 are classified as “hazardous”, while anything over 500 is beyond the official index.

The Delhi government then shut schools for three days, banned all construction work for five days to curb dust levels and temporarily closed the Badarpur plant.

A 2014 World Health Organization survey of more than 1,600 cities ranked Delhi as the most polluted.

India’s notoriously poor air quality causes over a million premature deaths every year, according to a joint report by two US-based health research institutes earlier this year.

Xi Jinping hails ‘new era’ at opening of China congress — Xi now a transformative leader alongside Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong.

October 18, 2017

Party conclave likely to cement president’s status as a transformative leader

China anti-corruption purge hits Central Committee

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, suit and indoor

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party’s five-yearly Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2017. Credit Wang Zhao – AFP – Getty Images

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By Tom Mitchell and Lucy Hornby in Beijing
FT (Financial Times)

President Xi Jinping declared that China had “entered a new era” as he opened a landmark Communist party congress that he hopes will cement his status as a transformative leader alongside Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong.

“The Chinese nation now stands tall and firm in the east,” Mr Xi said on Wednesday in Beijing at the opening of the party’s 19th congress, marking the formal start of his second five-year term as party leader. The congress, attended by about 2,300 delegates, will deliberate for one week before Mr Xi’s new party leadership team is revealed on October 24.

In an address that ran for more than three hours and was attended by his predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, Mr Xi urged his party colleagues to “work tirelessly to realise the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation” and hailed the economic progress made during his administration’s first term.

Image result for Xi Jinping, young school children sitting at attention in their classrooms, October 18, 2017, photos

President Xi Jinping’s (right) first term line-up was influenced by his predecessors Jiang Zemin (centre) and Hu Jintao. Photo: Reuters

“The Communist party is entering the Xi era,” said Sima Nan, a patriotic blogger. “Mao and Deng’s shadows still loom large, but Xi is his own man.”

As the hours ticked by, pictures circulated on social media showing young school children sitting at attention in their classrooms as they watched the president’s address on television.

Image result for chinese school children sit at attention, photos

AFP Photo

Mr Xi, however, offered little in the way of concrete plans and warned that “severe challenges” awaited China’s ruling party. “We have a long way to go in protecting the environment,” he said as air pollution in the Chinese capital hovered at officially “unhealthy” levels.

This is an era that will see China move closer to the centre of the world and make more contributions to humankind

“The last leg of a journey just marks the halfway point,” Mr Xi added, quoting a Chinese proverb. “Achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park; it will take more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there.”

Upon assuming power in November 2012, Mr Xi declared China’s rejuvenation as one of the world’s great powers to be the “dream” of the Chinese people.

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After a stock market crash and run on China’s currency in late 2015 and early 2016, which marked the low points of Mr Xi’s first term in office, the party’s confidence surged as economic growth stabilised and Europe and the US were rocked by the rise of economic nationalism.

Mr Xi indirectly alluded to these events, most notably Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 US presidential election, in Wednesday’s address.

“China’s cultural soft power and the international influence of Chinese culture have increased significantly,” Mr Xi said. “China’s international standing has risen as never before.”

Mr Xi noted that, during his time in office, China’s annual economic output surged from Rmb54tn to Rmb80tn ($8.2tn-$12tn), accounting for about one-third of total global growth.

“China has seen the basic needs of over 1bn people met,” the president said. He added that an average of 13m new urban jobs had been created each year, while some 60m people have been lifted out of poverty.

The Chinese president also highlighted the accomplishments of his signature anti-corruption campaign, which has ended the careers of more than 150 senior officials including 18 members — or about 9 per cent — of the party’s outgoing Central Committee.

One of the speech’s biggest applause lines was Mr Xi’s pledge to maintain the campaign’s “unstoppable momentum”. He said anti-graft investigators would continue to “take out tigers, swat flies and hunt down foxes”, referring to officials of all ranks and corruption suspects who have fled abroad.

“We have solved many tough problems that were long on the agenda … but never got done,” the president added.

“The focus for Xi has clearly been party-building and cleaning out corruption,” said Andrew Polk at Trivium China, a Beijing-based consultancy. “Everything else has been secondary.”

Mr Xi also outlined a vision for China through the middle of the 21st century, predicting that the world’s most populous nation would be “moderately prosperous” by 2035 and “prosperous, strong and democratic” by 2050. “It will be an era that sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind,” he said.

The president’s long-term vision has stoked speculation that he might seek to stay on as party leader beyond the traditional 10-year term.

Additional reporting by Xinning Liu
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https://www.ft.com/content/1fa302f6-b3b1-11e7-a398-73d59db9e399

UN slams UK government over ‘plague’ of air pollution — UK through inaction the government has “violated its obligations” to protect children

September 11, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | More than 40,000 premature deaths a year are linked to air pollution in the UK, according to a UN report

LONDON (AFP) – A UN report has slammed the UK for failing to tackle the “plague” of air pollution, while also warning of Brexit risks, ahead of the body’s Human Rights Council opening Monday.”Air pollution continues to plague the United Kingdom,” read the report by United Nations expert Baskut Tuncak, to be presented at the rights council in Geneva which runs until September 29.

More than 40,000 premature deaths a year are linked to air pollution, noted the report which argued that through inaction the government has “violated its obligations” to protect children.

“The Special Rapporteur is alarmed that despite repeated judicial instruction… the United Kingdom Government continues to flout its duty to ensure adequate air quality and protect the rights to life and health of its citizens,” it said.

The British government has faced a series of legal challenges over its proposals, with a 2015 air pollution plan struck down by the courts for being inadequate.

New proposals, including a scrappage scheme targeting diesel cars, were unveiled in May after the High Court ruled against the government’s intention to delay.

But the UN report said the latest plan “does not convey the necessary urgency” and urged the government to implement a “robust clean air plan without delay”.

Published against the backdrop of Britain’s divorce from the European Union, the Tuncak report praised the bloc for having some of the highest environmental standards in the world which have positively impacted the UK.

Despite government assurances that it will maintain EU environmental standards after Brexit, Tuncak said a lack of clarity on how this will happen has led to a “real danger” Britain will be left without the necessary legal framework.

“The United Kingdom market could risk becoming a haven for ‘dirty’ industries and a dumping ground for products failing to meet European Union regulations,” without matching EU legislation, the report said.

Wading into the subject of Brexit talks, the UN report advised the British government to continue to abide by evolving EU standards despite its exit from the bloc.

282 hot spots detected across Indonesia

August 6, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, fire, sky and outdoor

Indonesia — Fire-fighting operations in South Sumatra, one of the five provinces currently in a state of emergency. Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB)

JAKARTA – Indonesian satellites on Sunday (Aug 6) morning picked up 282 hot spots – believed to be the highest number across the country this year – as the dry season continues.

The worst hit province was West Kalimantan, where more than half of the hot spots were detected, said National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesman, Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, as he released the figures yesterday (Aug 6) evening.

Five districts in the province – Kubu Raya, Ketapang, Sekadau, Melawi and Bengkayang – have declared a state of emergency to enable local authorities to access central government support, including military assistance, to put out the fires.

Dr Sutopo also expressed concern that although 150 hot spots were detected across West Kalimantan, the number of fires there may be higher.

“Land and forest fires in West Kalimantan continue despite our continued efforts to suppress them,” he added.

He warned that the number of hot spots is probably higher as the satellites may not have passed over all the forest and land areas where fires could be burning.

Other areas in Indonesia were also hit by forest fires, albeit not as badly as in 2015 when the burning of forest and peatland in Kalimantan and Sumatra produced a transboundary haze, which blanketed the region and led to record air pollution levels for months.

Aside from those in West Kalimantan, the hot spots were spread across other provinces such as South Sumatra (23 hot spots), South Sulawesi (18), Riau (16) and East Nusa Tenggara (12).

Dr Sutopo said the hot spots were spotted on private plantation land, community-owned land and in national parks, in hard-to-reach locations.

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An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo

“The areas burned are generally areas that are difficult to access and away from settlements, that is why (the fires) are difficult to extinguish,” he added.

As of Saturday, 18 helicopters have been deployed for fire-fighting operations in Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan. All five provinces are currently in a state of emergency.

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said last Sunday that helicopters will deployed to put out fires over areas where there is limited road access.

“If land access is difficult or shut down for a long time, then we will use water-bombings,” she said.

The dry season in Indonesia is forecast to end in September, at the earliest.

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/282-hot-spots-detected-across-indonesia-on-sunday

Related:

 (Contains links to several related articles)

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Carbon monoxide concentrations world-wide during the Indonesian burning season, 2015

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Indonesian military officer orders that forest burners be shot — authorities struggle to contain fires that cause choking smoke in the region

August 5, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, outdoor and nature

An Indonesian ranger inspecting the peat forest fire at Meulaboh, Aceh province. PHOTO: AFP 

JAKARTA (REUTERS) – A military official in the Indonesian province of Jambi said on Saturday (Aug 5) that he has ordered that anyone who deliberately sets fire to forest areas be shot, as the authorities struggle to contain fires that cause choking smoke in the region.

Five Indonesian provinces have declared emergencies because of forest fires, according to Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), with the number of hotspots steadily increasing in many areas over the past week.

The BNPB is working with many government branches, including the military, to contain the fires.

Indonesian media have reported that the authorities in the neighbouring province of South Sumatra, also on the island of Sumatra, had issued the same order.

“This is to stress a point to the people, who have been warned many, many times,” said Colonel Refrizal, commander of the forest fire task force in Jambi. “(This is) to show our firmness and seriousness.”

The order would be carried out “responsibly”, said Refrizal, who goes by one name.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Twitter the Jambi task force was working to extinguish a fire covering an area of 10 hectares (25 acres).

Nugroho also said the authorities had found one area in Jambi that had been “intentionally” burned by its owner.

The number of hotspots had increased to 239 by July 30, from 173 hotspots three days earlier, according to the BNPB.

The hotspots were seen mostly on Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo island, with some also on Sumatra and Java island.

The agency had previously warned that the threat of forest fires would escalate, with the dry season expected to peak in September.

Indonesia is regularly hit by forest fires, which can result in choking smoke blowing across to neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia.

Image may contain: one or more people

An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo

The sprawling South-east Asian archipelago suffered some of its worst forest fires in 2015, hitting Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The World Bank, citing government data, said 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) of land in Indonesia burned between June and October 2015, causing US$16 billion (S$21.7 billion) of estimated economic damage.

Draining and conversion of peatland, often driven by palm oil plantations, contributed to the intensity of haze from the fires, the World Bank said.

Related:

 (Contains links to several related articles)

Image may contain: cloud

Carbon monoxide concentrations world-wide during the Indonesian burning season, 2015

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Commentary: Arresting the painful decline of Hong Kong’s financial centre — While decline seems endemic elsewhere in Hong Kong’s economy — China by-pass?

July 16, 2017

Image may contain: 2 people, skyscraper, sky, outdoor and water

Hong Kong marked 20 years since it was handed over to China on Jul 1, 2017. (Photo: AFP/Dale De La Rey)

Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/commentary-arresting-the-painful-decline-of-hong-kong-s-9030492

‘No Such Thing as Justice’ in Fight Over Chemical Pollution in China

June 14, 2017

DAPU, China — The small boy could no longer recognize the sound of his mother’s voice. Bony and pale, vanishing beneath a winter coat, he spoke mostly in grunts and screams, the language of his malady. He stumbled as he walked, never certain of the ground beneath him.

Wang Yifei, 5, was destined for a better life, his family thought. To ensure years of good fortune, they relied on traditions that had always guided them: making certain his mother stepped over hot coals on her wedding day and lining his crib with white cloth to fend off wayward spirits.

But Yifei had fallen ill, and like more than 300 other children in Dapu, a town of 62,000 in Hunan Province, in central China, he suffered hearing loss, impaired speech and difficulty walking. Many other children also struggled with memory problems, stunted growth, anemia and seizures.

Doctors eventually determined that the children had lead poisoning and pointed to a nearby factory, Meilun Chemical Materials, which produced pigments for use in paints and makeup powder. Upset and demanding accountability, dozens of families prepared to sue.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/world/asia/china-environmental-pollution-chemicals-lead-poisoning.html?action=click&contentCollection=world&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

Read the rest:

Environmental inspectors in northern China have found that nearly 14,000 companies, or 70 percent of the businesses they examined, failed to meet environmental standards for controlling air pollution, according to a state news agency report.

The inspectors working for the Ministry of Environmental Protection came up with those results after two months of work across 28 cities in northern China, said Xinhua, the state news agency. The companies and industries varied widely, including businesses such as wool processing and furniture production.

More than 4,700 companies were in unauthorized locations, lacked the proper certificates and failed to meet emissions standards, said the report, which was published on Sunday.

Even though Chinese leaders have vowed to crack down on polluters, the factories continue to contribute to severe levels of air, water and soil pollution. Chinese citizens cite the country’s widespread pollution as one of the issues of greatest concern to them.

The announcement, which was dated June 10 and circulated online this week, also calls into question whether China can fill a global leadership vacuum on the issue of climate change. China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has urged countries to abide by the Paris climate accord, even though President Trump is withdrawing the United States, historically the largest emitter, from the accord.

China has pledged to hit certain targets to try to limit or bring down emissions, and its leaders say they intend to curb coal use.

Coal consumption, the biggest source of greenhouse gases, has been flat or declining in recent years, largely because of slowing economic growth. But state-owned enterprises that burn coal — including those in the power, steel and cement sectors — remain powerful and challenge official efforts to limit coal consumption.

Coal is also the biggest source of air pollutants, including the fine particulate matter commonly known as PM 2.5, deemed by scientists to be extremely harmful. The coal-burning steel factories in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing, are huge emitters of air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

The inspectors sent out by the environmental ministry have been looking at enterprises in what is known as the Jing-Jin-Ji area, a vast urban sprawl that includes the cities of Beijing and Tianjin, as well as Hebei Province. The Beijing municipal area has about 22 million people, and Tianjin 15 million.

In April, the Ministry of Environmental Protection announced it was carrying out a series of inspections over one year to try to improve the air quality. It said about 5,600 inspectors would be sent to Beijing, Tianjin and 26 smaller cities in Jing-Jin-Ji.

The ministry has been posting announcements with some results from the rounds of inspections. The latest announcement said that of 467 enterprises inspected in one recent round, a staggering 350, or 75 percent, had “environmental problems.” The issues included lack of pollution control mechanisms and sewage treatment facilities.

Cities in northern China have some of the worst air pollution in the world, rivaled only by urban centers in India and Iran. Li Keqiang, China’s premier, has vowed to carry out a “war on pollution.”

On occasion, officials in Beijing have had to issue a “red alert,” ordering the shutdown of schools and telling people to stay home because of overwhelming smog.

China Shuts Only Undersea Coal Mine Amid Production Rebound

May 24, 2017

BEIJING — China is shutting down its only undersea coal mine as the government struggles to rein in rising production that threatens to frustrate a planned shift to cleaner-burning fuels.

The state-run Global Times said Wednesday the Beizao coal mine in Shandong Province will be shut down in October and 1,580 employees transferred to new jobs.

China is the world’s largest coal consumer. Pollution from the fuel is a major contributor to smog that blankets many Chinese cities.

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Government officials announced plans to shutter 1,000 mines in 2016. But data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows coal is rebounding this year with production up 9.9 percent through April to 1.1 billion tons.

Japan, Britain and Canada also have operated undersea coal mines, which can be more expensive than conventional mines.

China’s JAC says electric car tie-up with VW approved

May 22, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | A security guard next to Volkswagen’s logo at the Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition on April 19, 2017

SHANGHAI (AFP) – 

China’s JAC Motors said on Monday it had received government approval for a $734 million joint venture with Volkswagen to produce 100,000 electric cars per year.

Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, is also the market leader in China. It sold four million cars in the country last year but only a few hundred of them were “green” despite rapid growth in electric vehicle sales in China.

China has for years been the world’s largest automotive market but also more recently became the top market for electric vehicles, helped by government purchase incentives.

JAC, or Jianghuai Automobile Group, which is based in the eastern province of Anhui, said in a filing to the Shanghai stock exchange that the partnership with VW had been green-lighted by China’s top economic planning agency.

China requires that foreign automakers form joint ventures with its manufacturers.

Volkswagen already makes cars in partnership with other Chinese manufacturers.

Volkswagen’s China CEO Jochem Heizmann had said during the Shanghai auto show last month that VW expects to sell around 400,000 new-energy vehicles in China in 2020.

Chinese sales of “new energy” vehicles jumped 53 percent last year to 507,000 units, fuelled by government incentives aimed at fighting chronic air pollution.

A Chinese government proposal published in September would, if finalised, require manufacturers to produce a certain percentage of clean-energy vehicles as early as 2018.