Municipal environmental protection authorities in Beijing are trying a new tactic in their war against the city's 28 biggest polluters.
For the first time, they've published a list of the alleged polluting enterprises, hoping the bad publicity will fluster the firms into compliance.
The move shows the city is once again increasing the importance it began placing on air quality in 1998.
Officials say the group of heavy polluters produces a total of 78,000 tons of sulphur dioxide every year, or 68 percent of the city's overall industrial emissions.
Sulphur dioxide gases harm people's respiratory systems and are a cause of acid rain.
The listed companies also produce 13,000 tons of dust and smoke, or 44 percent of the city's total dust and smoke emissions being pumped out by industrial businesses, said Wang Dawei, chief of the Pollution Control Division at the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau.
For years the Chinese capital has been working and investing heavily to achieve its goal of a green Summer Olympics by the year 2008.
The first batch of the 28 polluters, including five sub-companies under the steel giant Shougang Group, are mainly engaged in supplying electricity and heating, petrochemicals and the steel-smelting industry.
The companies have been ordered to finish machine-refurbishment projects and reduce pollutant emissions to State standards by the end of this year.
Those who exceed the time limits will be punished according to the law, said Wang.
He also said his bureau will make public a second and the third batch of names of other heavy polluters in the next few months.
Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the bureau, said if all pollution-reducing projects for the 28 companies are finished as scheduled, the air in Beijing would be much cleaner. As much as 50,000 fewer tons of sulphur dioxide and 4,000 fewer tons of smoke and dust would be thrust into the air each year than before.
But Du expressed concerns about whether the projects will be completed as they should be, mainly because of the large gap between limited punishments that go to violators versus the economic interests they enjoy from doing business.
According to the current Law on Air Pollution Prevention and Control, a unit discharging a greater amount of pollutants than allowed by law can be fined no more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,200).
Installing pollution control equipment is far more costly, said Du. So some enterprises prefer not to pay for machines, and simply keep paying fines.
Besides ordering the polluters to refurbish their equipment, the bureau and other related government organs will no longer approve projects that do not meet established pollution and energy consumption requirements.
(China Daily June 9, 2004)