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Chen Jining takes an inspection tour to Shijiazhuang to check local air quality

Minister Chen Jining goes to Shijiazhuang Municipality of Hebei Province in North China on Feb. 24 for a thematic inspection on local air quality in the first quarter of the year. Photo by MEP

By Liu Xiaoxing

SHIJIAZHUANG, CENEWS-On Feb. 24, Minister Chen Jining went to Shijiazhuang for a thematic inspection on local air quality in the first quarter of the year. He went on field trips to the Shijiazhuang city proper, Xinle City, and Jinzhou City to check how well the enterprises have operated their air pollution control facilities and upgraded their boilers, and how the small enterprise clusters have emitted pollution. Chen also chaired a symposium at which he set requirements for the city’s air pollution control effort.

To show up at the fields of inspection without prior notices and unannounced and go straight to the problems is the most common approach taken by the inspection team. As soon as they arrived in Shijiazhuang, Chen and his team took a ride to Hebei Xinhua Company in Shile City and focused on investigating the random emissions by key polluters. In the company compound, the team traced the origin of the stinky sulfureted hydrogen back to the scrubber tower and the scrubbing wastewater recycling pool and checked how they have been operated. Walking into the boiler room, Chen looked closely into the recent workloads of the boilers and the online NOx emission data, and made comparisons in specifics. “The random emissions of the enterprises contribute considerably to air pollution. In this sense, regardless of the random emissions, the emissions of stationary sources, even if they attain the emission standards, do not represent the actual emission level of an enterprise. And we should give priority to solving the problem with random emissions in our next work plan,” said Chen to the local government officials and enterprise employees at the field of inspection.

As the major precursor of PM 2.5 and O3, VOCs is a hard nut to crack and a weak link in the ongoing air pollution control effort. In this inspection tour, Chen laid the emphasis on checking the latest developments of major VOCs contributors in VOCs emission and control. On the way to the fermentation workshop owned by North China Pharmaceutical Company, Chen said that “different odors can be captured within a distance of dozens of meters; so, the company should tackle VOCs pollution as soon as possible and strive to reduce such pollution at the source.”

Almost every county under the municipal government owns characteristic industries, most of which are small-sized enterprises that are distributed in scattered places, operate disorderly, and adopt poor processes with insufficient environmental facilities. They are the hard nuts to crack in local air pollution control work. “How many such enterprises are there in this area? How advanced is the process you adopt? What is your profiting performance? Is there any environmental facility available?” inquired Chen about how advanced the processes adopted by the local calcium silicate board producers are and how they operate their environmental facilities, at the site of the boiler upgrading project when the team visited Shijiazhuang Wealth Board Company. There is a gypsum powder producer across the street from Wealth. The gate was closed. Treading on a thick layer of gypsum powder on the way in, Chen found that outdated grinding machines were wrapped in thick rust in a crude workshop, the floor of which was covered by massive dust. Several mechanicians, with white dust from head to foot, claimed they were checking up the equipment. “An enterprise won’t stand a chance in the market competition with so backward processes. Competitive enterprises won’t get in the market if such enterprises are not out”, commented Chen.

On the night, Chen chaired a symposium on air pollution control, at which he analyzed and estimated the daunting situations facing Shijiazhuang and the next work plans, together with the heads of the departments directly under the municipal government, and of the county and district governments. In 2016, in accordance with the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, Shijiazhuang paid close attention to the implementation of the action plan for air pollution control and carried out the “sword” action to control pollution. However, the situation had been extremely challenging. The mean annual PM2.5 reading went up 11.2 percent from 2015, ranking the last but one in terms of air quality among the first 74 key cities to commence the enforcement of the new ambient air quality standards. Also, in the top ten counties/districts with the poorest air quality across the Hebei Province, five were from Shijiazhuang. What’s more, the monthly PM2.5 reading reached as much as 200 µg /m3 in January, up 51.5 percent from last January.

In light of this, Chen responded that the CPC Central Committee and the State Council have always attached great importance to the air pollution control effort, and Secretary General Xi Jinping made important instructions on multiple occasions. Shijiazhuang have seriously implemented the deployments of the central authorities and made painstaking efforts. However, the city should be fully aware of the daunting and urgent nature of the situations and the tough and complicated nature of the tasks. The air quality has been deteriorating significantly across the city starting last October, and the main pollutant indicators all went up rather than went down in both January and February. There were objective contributors such as the metrological condition, but the main causes were that certain problems have not been solved, for example, the pollution control pressure was not transmitted down the chain of command, there were pressing environmental problems at the county and town levels, the environmental management was extensive, there were clusters of “scattered, disorderly, and polluting” enterprises and massive flying dust on roads, and emergency response actions were not taken to tackle heavy air pollution. Chen hoped that this inspection can, on the one hand, fully expose all sorts of problems, and on the other hand, highlight the key and weak link of districts and counties, transmit the pressure down the chain of command to the county/district level, consolidate the responsibilities, and effectively solve the revealed problems with substantial measures.

Furthermore, Chen required that Shijiazhuang and its districts and counties should firmly bear in mind and practice the green development concept that “clean waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets”, significantly raise the ideological awareness, enhance the political sense to be fully aware of the importance, urgency, and toughness of air pollution control, and resolutely renounce such incorrect viewpoints that “the protection of the environment will hinder the development”, that “the environmental protection has to be very costly”, and that “we can take a wait-and-see attitude towards environmental protection”. Moreover, they should have a clear understanding of the difficulties and problems facing the air pollution control, identify their own deficiencies, clarify their train of thought, adopt creative work methodologies, and advance the improvement of air quality with firmer resolve and stronger measures. They should make greater efforts to treat the “scattered, disorderly, and polluting” enterprises, take resolute actions to ban the ones that cause heavy pollution and are impossible to be treated, press ahead with the pollution reduction, improve the ecological environment, and in the meantime, shape a good market order, make room for the good enterprises in the market, and catalyze the industrial transformations and upgrading. Moreover, they should highlight the work at the county and town levels, prepare a specific list of tasks concerning the control of pollution from scattered coals, flying dust, and vehicles, establish a grid-based responsibility system targeting key polluters and step up delicacy management. They should further improve the contingency plans against heavy air pollution, enable the emergency response measures to be more relevant, highlight the implementation of contingency plans, and make sure the measures are feasible and verifiable. They should strengthen the S&T support, and organize expert panels to help the city and its districts and counties to step up the source apportionment, and enable the treatment measures to be more science-base, pertinent, and effective.

(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)

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