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China's Environment Minister feels 'guilty' over rising pollution

By Ians English

Beijing, Jan 8 China's Environment Minister says he feels "guilty" for having failed to curb the deadly air pollution in major cities which claims over a million lives every year.


Chen Jining said he was guilty and wanted to reprimand himself, Xinhua news agency reported. The minister said that since the beginning of this season's winter, heavy air pollution in various places in China disrupted production activities and caused people immense problems. The public felt anxious about the smog, he said.

Recently, Beijing and about two dozen north China cities were shrouded in a thick blanket of smog, prompting the authorities to issue a red alert -- the highest of the four-tier air pollution warnings. So much so that residents of Beijing temporarily fled the city to celebrate New Year.

In the past few years, the Chinese government has taken several steps to contain air pollution -- an offshoot of unbridled industrialisation, coal-fired power plants and ever-increasing number of cars. Though the measures have been effective, gray skies and smothering smog time and again have reminded the authorities that a lot still needs to be done. Chen said analysis of vehicular statistics showed emissions added to the rising pollution in big cities.

He said the Environment Ministry was evaluating emergency plans of 20 cities aimed at dealing with heavy air pollution and hoped to improve their ability to respond to situations. The cities include Beijing and Tianjin besides 18 other cities in Hebei and surrounding provinces. Inspections had found some cities had failed to take effective measures following alerts, or their measures were impracticable, Chen said.

The minister vowed to take concrete steps and employ more stringent and effective measures to deal with outstanding environmental problems and improve environmental quality. Many top officials in provincial governments have been sacked for failing to contain pollution. In 2015, China shut down some 17,000 polluting units in the country.


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