Steel­mak­ers sus­pected in smog

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHENG JINRAN zhengjin­ran@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Lead­ing re­searchers on air pol­lu­tion have iden­ti­fied the mas­sive amounts of dis­charged pol­lu­tants, es­pe­cially from in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion, as the root cause of the se­vere win­ter smog in the Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei re­gion.

The sit­u­a­tion has likely been ex­ac­er­bated by the ris- ing price of steel, which re­sulted in plants in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion to net higher prof­its, ac­cord­ing to en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists.

The smog that has blan­keted north­ern and cen­tral ar­eas since Fri­day has dis­rupted air­ports and ex­press­ways and led to school clo­sures. In re­sponse, red alerts were is­sued by 24 cities to limit emis­sions from in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion, with more than 1,200 fac­to­ries in Bei­jing alone told to close or re­duce out­put.

How­ever, much of the dam­age may al­ready have been done. A Green­peace study re­leased over the week­end found that a 50 per­cent rise in the steel price in the

sec­ond half of the year saw a rapid in­crease in pro­duc­tion.

The trend could be seen “es­pe­cially in south­ern cities of He­bei prov­ince and north­ern parts of He­nan prov­ince”, said Dong Lian­sai, the en­vi­ron­men­tal group’s head of air pol­lu­tion re­search, who added that a sim­i­lar trend was also seen at ce­ment fac­to­ries.

No re­gional data was avail­able, but ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Bureau of Statis­tics, steel pro­duc­tion na­tion­wide in­creased by 1.7 per­cent yearon-year in Novem­ber.

Ac­cord­ing to Wang Guo- qing, di­rec­tor of the Lange Steel In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter, an in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tancy in Bei­jing, the price hike meant larger prof­its for Chi­nese steel com­pa­nies, with prof­its grow­ing by 310 per­cent in the first 10 months com­pared with the same pe­riod last year.

She said pro­duc­tion re­stric­tions in­tro­duced by govern­ments, such as the red alerts, and in­creas­ing costs of raw ma­te­ri­als and lo­gis­tics had driven the steel price higher.

Both Dong and Wang said the in­crease in emis­sions from the boost in pro­duc­tion was a likely con­trib­u­tor to the se­vere smog in the Bei­jing-Tian­jinHe­bei re­gion.

Although the sit­u­a­tion was im­prov­ing, air pol­lu­tion has been a fre­quent is­sue dur­ing the pe­riod when north­ern re­gions fire up cen­tral heat­ing sys­tems, gen­er­ally from Nov 15 to March 15.

In ad­di­tion to in­dus­trial emis­sions, re­searchers and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials agree that the heavy reliance on coal con­sump­tion in north­ern re­gions is an­other ma­jor rea­son for the fre­quent air pol­lu­tion.

Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions also play a part. A lack of wind, for ex­am­ple, means the pol­lu­tion lingers.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion, author­i­ties in the Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei re­gion have taken joint steps to re­duce air pol­lu­tion and bring more blue sky days. How­ever, ef­forts to pun­ish com­pa­nies that vi­o­late re­stric­tions on pro­duc­tion are still be­ing re­fined.

Ma Yong, an en­vi­ron­men­tal re­searcher with the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court Law Cen­ter, said, “To cut emis­sions, there should be tougher pun­ish­ments to de­ter com­pa­nies vi­o­lat­ing the re­stric­tions, mak­ing fines higher than their po­ten­tial prof­its.”

ZHU XINGXIN / CHINA DAILY

Pri­mary school stu­dents wear­ing masks leave a school in Shi­ji­azhuang, He­bei prov­ince, on Tues­day. The city, which had the worst air qual­ity in Novem­ber among 74 ma­jor cities mon­i­tored, or­dered classes sus­pended on Wed­nes­day.

FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY WANG ZHUANGFEI / CHINA DAILY JIANG DONG / CHINA DAILY ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

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