China's polluters must install monitoring equipment by year-end: parliament

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - All of China’s major polluters will need to install real-time emissions monitoring systems before the end of the year, according to a report submitted to parliament on Monday, as the country tries to improve surveillance and bring lawbreaking firms into line.

FILE PHOTO - Forbidden City is seen amid smog ahead of Chinese Lunar New Year in Beijing, China February 13, 2018. Picture taken February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China is now in the fifth year of its war on pollution, and President Xi Jinping said in May that the country would use the full might of the ruling Communist Party to fix the damage done by four decades of untrammeled economic growth.

According to the National People’s Congress (NPC) report, published by state news agency Xinhua, China’s central government has already spent 52.8 billion yuan ($7.98 billion) to improve air quality over the 2012 to 2017 period.

But some regions are still way behind when it comes to monitoring and cracking down on pollution, it said, and China will work to create a comprehensive nationwide monitoring system by the end of the decade, extending full coverage to smog-prone cities in the country’s central and western regions.

Though China has tried to create a national surveillance system that would enable regulators to identify violations in real time, monitoring standards and compliance levels have so far been uneven.

During a nationwide inspection program completed last year, the central government uncovered thousands of violations throughout China’s 31 provinces and regions, and according to recent reviews, many of the problems still have not been properly rectified.

The report to parliament also promised that all households in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and Shanxi-Shaanxi regions would make the switch from coal to natural gas heating by 2020 as part of efforts to curb smog.

China already converted more than 4.7 million households and 62,000 enterprises from coal to gas over the 2012 to 2017 period, but the acceleration of the program last year led to severe fuel shortages across the northern regions during the winter.

China also installed ultra-low emissions technology on more than 700 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity in the last five years, equal to 71 percent of the country’s total coal-fired power capacity. It also eliminated more than 20 million substandard vehicles from its roads over the period, the report added.

($1 = 6.6178 yuan)

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Christian Schmollinger