BEIJING, Oct. 15 (Xinhuanet) -- The central government said on Monday it is offering a total of 5 billion yuan ($818 million) in financial rewards to Beijing and its neighboring provinces to fuel their fight against air pollution.
The Ministry of Finance announced that the special budget is up for grabs among Beijing, Tianjin and the surrounding areas of Hebei, Shanxi and Shandong provinces as well as the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, where the air quality did not meet national standards for nearly two-thirds of August.
The cities with the worst air quality and those located in the surrounding areas of Beijing are higher on the priority list for receiving the special central government funding. At the end of the year, the central government will assess which region on the priority list made greater strides in reducing air pollution and allocate the special budgetary fund accordingly.
Most of the central government's funds will likely be funneled to the heavily polluted province of Hebei, which is currently taking considerable steps to reduce its air pollution. Seven cities in the province were included on a list of the top 10 Chinese cities with the worst air quality in August.
The 5 billion yuan will help create an incentive for the designated regions to meet their air pollution reduction targets, to invest in pollution control and to aid in their efforts to reduce airborne pollutants.
Hebei, which has experienced smoggy conditions since the start of the year, has taken efforts to cut down on emissions, including making energy consumption and its industrial structure more efficient. The province's economy is primarily made up of heavy industries.
"We will rein in industries that consume a lot of energy and are heavy polluters, such as iron, steel and cement. We will also promote clean energy, like gas, and make sure our economic development in the future is higher in quality and is more environmentally friendly," said Gao Junzhao, assistant inspector from the Hebei Development and Reform Commission.
About 411 small coal-fired boilers and kilns in Hebei were removed through the end of September and another 14 coal-fired generation units have been upgraded, according to the latest statistics released by the commission.
The production of steel will be reduced by 60 million tons in five years and the consumption of coal in Hebei will be reduced by 40 million tons. Meanwhile green energy and natural gas usage will climb to 15 billion cubic meters in 2017 from 5 billion cubic meters in 2012, though Gao said the supply of gas in the province isn't adequate.
For the coming winter season, the supply of gas in Hebei will increase sharply to 3.1 billion cubic meters.
"But we are short about 760 million cubic meters of natural gas, so we have to buy liquid natural gas and build stockpile stations in four cities as a precaution," Gao said.
The province is working to cut air pollution with both short-term and long-term measures. One short-term measure is to cut down on dust from construction sites in six months.
All construction sites in Shijiazhuang and Hengshui have been suspended pending new inspections.
The province will also install surveillance cameras in 95 percent of its construction sites in urban areas by the end of the year and in 95 percent of rural construction sites by May 2014. Supervision on air pollution, which will include the installation of monitoring stations, will cover all of the province's 143 counties and districts by the end of June 2014.
"We found that 85 percent of complaints on environmental pollution are from rural areas, so we will expand our monitoring network to cover all the areas," said Yin Guangping, deputy director-general of the Hebei Environmental Protection Bureau.
(Source: China Daily)