March 23, 2018 / 12:43 PM / a year ago

Beijing top performer as Chinese cities cut October-February pollution levels

A vehicle drives past a closed factory on a polluted day after the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays in Beijing, China, February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing achieved the biggest reduction in average pollution levels among 28 cities in northern China over October-February, in a sign that winter curbs on industry significantly improved air quality in the capital, official data showed on Friday.

Concentrations of small, breathable particles known as PM2.5 fell by 54.5 percent year-on-year in Beijing to an average of 46 micrograms per cubic metre for the five-month period, the newly formed Ministry of Ecology and Environment said on its official Weibo account.

Beijing, whose PM2.5 average over October-February was also the lowest listed, easily beat its target of a 25 percent year-on-year cut and scored a 29.6 percent year-on-year reduction in February alone, the third-best performance for the month.

Shijiazhuang, the smog-prone capital of the northern Hebei province that surrounds Beijing, came second in the list for October-February, cutting its average PM2.5 level by 48.6 percent to 93 micrograms.

The 28 cities have been selected by the Chinese government for targeted anti-pollution measures, especially during the peak winter heating season in northern China that ran from mid-November to mid-March.

Environment minister Li Ganjie said last week China would set more stringent targets for improving air quality under a new three-year plan.

Two other Hebei cities, Langfang and Baoding, were placed third and fourth, respectively, for October-February reductions, with Baoding the top performer in February alone.

Tianjin was fifth and Tangshan, China’s heavily polluted steel capital, also in Hebei, was sixth, cutting its average PM2.5 reading by 38.5 percent to 67 microgams.

Jincheng, in Shanxi province, placed 28th, registering only a 10.7 percent cut and a posting a 7.1 percent increase in PM2.5 levels in February.

Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Mark Potter

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