China aims to finish building a nationwide network to monitor air quality in its vast rural areas by the end of the year, an environmental researcher said.
Air pollution is largely caused by the burning of straw in rural areas. [Xinhua]
The construction of the network shows China is extending its pollution-busting drive to rural villages, where environmental protection awareness is weakest, said Wen Xiangcai, of the China National Environmental Monitoring Center.
Wen, also a member of the country's top political advisory body, said China had already begun to choose one rural spot in each province, municipality and autonomous region for the setting-up of air monitoring stations.
"Through the stations, we will collect the data that forms the basis for pollution prevention and control," Wen said, adding that all stations will be set up before the end of 2012.
As China is strengthening pollution control in cities, some small, heavily polluting enterprises will shift to rural areas, bringing much pressure to the environment of China's countryside, according to Wen.
A nationwide pollution survey conducted by the Ministry of Environment Protection in 2011 showed that rural areas account for 43 percent of the nation's chemical oxygen demand discharges, 57 percent of its nitrogen discharges and 67 percent of its phosphorus discharges.
"Bringing pollution in rural areas under control is a pressing task," Wen said.
The central government has in recent years beefed up measures to control pollution in rural areas. Its funding for such initiatives jumped from 500 million yuan (79.36 million U.S. dollars) in 2008 to 9.5 billion yuan in 2011.
The next step, said Wen, is to "train more environmental professionals to strengthen technical surveillance and expand advertisements about environmental protection."