Chinese legislature revising law to tackle smog

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Major revisions for China's air pollution control laws began on Monday as the country plans harsher punishment for offenders.

A draft amendment to the air pollution prevention and control law was submitted to China's top legislature for a first reading at the start of the bimonthly session Standing Committee of the 12th National People's Congress. The meeting will last from Monday to Sunday.

A man wearing a mask is pictured in Tian'anmen Square in February on one of Beijing's bad smog days. The capital and eight neighboring cities are among China's worst for air pollution. [Photo/Xinhua]

China's current air pollution prevention and control law was stipulated in 1987. It was revised in 2000 to strengthen control on the discharge of sulfur dioxide and the law, since then, has been playing an important role in preventing and controlling pollution caused by coal burning.

While the current law has seven chapters and 66 clauses, the draft law contains eight chapters and 100 clauses.

The draft amendment adds a new chapter on dealing with smoggy days, stipulating that the country should establish a monitoring and early-warning system for heavily-polluted days.

With the country's rapid economic and social development and the striking increase in the amount of automobiles, China's air pollution is currently caused by a combination of smoke from burning coal and vehicle exhaust, said Zhou Shengxian, minister of environmental protection, when explaining the draft amendment to lawmakers on Monday.

"Air pollution problems in certain regions have become prominent and smoggy days are often seen, all of which demonstrate that the existing law cannot fit in the current situation," said Zhou.

China has 244 million people licensed to drive cars, according to the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) in November.

There are 264 million civil motor vehicles on roads as of present, including 154 million automobiles, next only to the United States. Now China has 15 percent of total automobiles in the world.

Meanwhile, air pollution has been a very thorny issue grabbing tremendous social attention.

Beijing and eight of its neighboring cities were among the 10 Chinese cities with the worst air quality in the third quarter of 2014, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in October.

The ministry said the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region on average suffered from air pollution on 45 percent of the days in the third quarter.

Early warning and contigency plan for smoggy days

The new draft law will have the State Council's environmental protection department and meteorological agency, as well as province-level governments in key air pollution control regions, establish a monitor and early-warning system for heavily polluted days. When a smoggy day is predicted, the province-level government in key areas should be informed.

Environmental protection departments and meteorological departments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities as well as some large cities, should also establish the early-warning system for heavily polluted days in their own administrative regions.

Tackling heavily-polluted weather shall be included in local government's emergency response plan, according to the draft, adding that governments at county level or above should stipulate a contingency plan for heavily-polluted days. And the contingency plan should be made public.

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