(Yicai Global) Jan. 19 -- China's environment ministry has reproached officials in the north-central city of Linfen for worsening air pollution and has suspended some new heavy pollution-emitting projects in the area.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection called a meeting with senior government officials of Linfen in Shanxi province and urged them to strictly perform carry out their responsibilities, enhance air pollution control, and improve their emergency response to heavy smog. This is the first meeting with a local government the ministry has scheduled this year.
The ministry said today it has suspended the approval of major new air pollutant emitting projects (except for livelihood and energy-saving and emission-reduction projects) in Linfen and told the Shanxi and Linfen environmental protection departments to implement the decision concurrently.
Liu Changgen, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Inspectorate Office, briefed those present on the ministry's opinions, identifying problems in the city such as continuously deteriorating air quality, illegal discharge of pollutants by the coking, iron, steel and other industries, and poor response to heavy pollution.
The ministry has imposed high penalties before for excessive emissions on companies located in Linfen, such as Shanxi Coking Group Co. [SHA: 600740] and Shanxi Sanwei Ruide Coking Co. [SHE:000755].
Air quality in Linfen has constantly declined, with mean sulfur dioxide (SO2) concentrations in particular far exceeding the standard. But the Linfen government has failed to issue public warnings or take effective control measures.
Li Ting, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said on popular messaging app WeChat on Jan. 5 that the SO2 concentration in Linfen surged to over 1,100 micrograms per cubic meter and reached a high of 1,303 micrograms, with the SO2 concentration in the region exceeding the standard for several days. In the first two weeks of this month, the daily concentration of SO2 in Linfen was 366.85 micrograms per cubic meter, far higher than the national standard 24-hour limit of 150 micrograms.
World Health Organization guidelines published in 2005 prescribe that SO2 concentrations should be less than 500 micrograms per cubic meter in a 10-minute environment and less than 20 micrograms in a 24-hour environment.