China passes law to control air pollution

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As lawmakers discussed the draft amendment, half of Beijing's cars were off the road, as a traffic restriction is imposed to keep air clean before the World War II victory parade on Sept. 3.[Photo/]

China's top legislature on Saturday adopted an amendment to the Air Pollution Control Law that will restrict various sources of smog and make information on environmental cleanliness more readily available to the public.

Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) passed the bill through a vote at the close of the bi-monthly legislative session.

The law stipulates that a gasoline quality standard should be established and matched with the country's restriction requirements for major pollutants.

Although China's gasoline has roughly the same standard as in Europe in terms of sulfur content, the permitted content of olefin, arenes and benzene in diesel is far higher.

Li Mengliang, of the China Automotive Technology & Research Center, suggested environmental authorities work with other departments to compile the gasoline quality standard.

The amended law also provides that China should promote clean and efficient use of coal, obliging local governments to ban low-quality coal for residential use.

Meanwhile, it bans dispersing toxic pesticides into trees and bushes in densely populated areas, which will be good news for people with asthma and lung diseases.

The law gives the green light for remote sensors to be positioned on streets to check the emissions of moving vehicles.

This technology will test the intensity of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbon hydrate and nitrogen oxide.

Beijing plans to install about 150 such surveillance devices along key roads, said Li Linnan, vice director of the city's vehicle emission control center.

Air quality in coastal areas is heavily impacted by ships fueled by sulfur-intensive heavy oil. In response, the adopted version stipulates that a control area for pollutant discharge of ships be designated.

Ships entering the area must conform to emission requirements.

The law also provides greater environmental transparency to the public. It stipulates authorities of the State Council should evaluate provincial-level governments on their attainment of air quality improvement targets.

Likewise, provincial-level governments will assess cities within their jurisdictions in this regard, and assessment results should be made public.

Moreover, air pollution following environmental emergencies should be monitored and details made public, a revision adopted based upon legislators' proposals during this bi-monthly session.

A warehouse explosion in Tianjin on Aug. 12 not only killed at least 146 people but also endangered the environment of surrounding areas with toxic chemical.

The law also specifies other items to be disclosed publicly, including air quality standard, catalogue of major polluters, contact information of environmental authorities and supervisors, test results on the emissions of new vehicles, and sources and fluctuations of air pollution in important areas.

Another prominent revision adopted on Saturday is the removal of clauses allowing local governments to restrict or ban vehicles to fight air pollution.

Hao Ruyu, vice chairman of the NPC Financial and Economic Committee, supported the revision on the ground of protecting citizens' rights to property.

People pay to buy cars and pay taxes for the cars. Banning people from driving on certain days equates to deprivation of citizens' rights to property, Hao said.

In a bid to control smog, Chinese cities have begun to restrict the use of vehicles. In Beijing, vehicles are restricted one out of five weekdays based upon the last numbers of their license plates.

As lawmakers discussed the draft amendment, half of Beijing's cars were off the road, as a traffic restriction is imposed to keep air clean before the World War II victory parade on Sept. 3.

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