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January 21, 2014

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Air quality law in works to punish polluters

Shanghai will impose legal penalties on violators of the new air pollution alarm system which was issued last week.

Under the new system, factories will be suspended and vehicles banned from the roads on severely polluted days.

Zhang Quan, director of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, said factories and vehicles will have to compulsorily follow the four-tier alarm system.

“Shanghai will pass a new air pollution protection law this year that will include the alarm system as well as punishments for violators,” Zhang said on the sidelines of the annual session of the Shanghai People’s Congress.

The alarms differentiated with colors — blue, yellow, orange and red — will be issued depending on the levels of air quality. The yellow alarm will be sounded when the Air Quality Index is predicted to be between 201 and 300 in the next 48 hours.

Construction work will be shut, factories discharging pollutants will be suspended and earth-moving vehicles will be banned from the roads.

Companies which own these vehicles and construction sites will be notified of the suspension order.

Authorities will also consider giving protective masks to residents on seriously polluted days as some political advisers have suggested at the ongoing political advisory meeting.

But Zhang said all alarms and emergency plans are temporary measures and cannot solve the problem of pollution. “To shut polluting factories, eliminate vehicles with high emissions and cooperating with neighboring provinces is the way to curb pollution,” he said.

Meanwhile, more than 100 legislators signed a letter urging residents to avoid fireworks during the Spring Festival.

The letter says although setting off fireworks is a Chinese New Year tradition, it also  worsen the air quality.

Polluting ships

Separately, Fan Yaxiang, deputy director with the Yangtze River Channel Management Bureau, said authorities must also pay attention to polluting ships and boats, an area that has long been neglected for long.

“Large amount of particles and pollutants are being released by moving and berthing boats and ships that severely pollute the city’s harbors,” Fan said.

Pollution from ships account for 12 percent of the city’s total sulphur oxygen emissions, 11 percent of the total nitrogen oxygen emissions and some 5 percent of the PM2.5, according to a survey from the city’s air quality watchdog.

Ships from neighboring Anhui and Jiangsu provinces are also polluting the air when they pass the mouth of the Yangtze River to or from the sea, he added.

Fan said the city government should force ships to upgrade the fuel they use.



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