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January 8, 2015

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Home » Metro » Environment

Ships, cargo trucks ‘next’ as city builds on air pollution successes

REDUCING pollution caused by heavy trucks and ships will be a priority for Shanghai this year, an environment official said yesterday.

Although the city has far fewer vehicles than Beijing, the amount of pollution they create is much higher, said Luo Hailin, an official with the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau.

The problem, he said, is that Shanghai has more cargo trucks that produce a “huge amount of exhaust fumes and dust, and damage air quality.”

“Seeking ways to reduce emissions from motor vehicles will continue to be one of our main tasks in 2015,” he said.

Unlike Beijing and most other Chinese cities, Shanghai has the added problem of having to deal with a massive volume of river traffic, Luo said.

“In the past we have overlooked the impact of the emissions from ships coming into and out of harbor, but they are a major source of pollutants,” he said.

“One of the problems is that Shanghai welcomes vessels from all over the world, but there is no unified standard on emissions. The government needs to decide whether we should follow the practice of international ports or establish our own,” he said.

Cleaner streets

According to a survey issued in 2013 by the air quality watchdog, ships account for 12 percent of Shanghai’s sulfur oxygen emissions, 11 percent of its nitrogen dioxide emissions and about 5 percent of its PM2.5 particles.

As well as vessels coming into port in Shanghai, ships passing the mouth of the Yangtze River en route to or from Anhui and Jiangsu provinces also contribute to the city’s pollution, Luo said.

As part of last year’s efforts to reduce pollution from road traffic, more than 170,000 heavy-polluting and aging vehicles were taken off the city’s streets, the bureau said.

Another key measure taken to tackle pollution in 2014 was a cooperation deal agreed by authorities in Shanghai and the neighboring provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui. Under the pact, governments agreed to share air quality data, create industrial emission standards and alert each other to pollution threats, the bureau said.

Other steps last year included the closure or updating of 1,675 boilers and furnaces that used coal or heavy oil, and the installation of more than 100 dust detectors at construction sites.

The city also introduced a ban on straw burning early in the year, which is upheld with the help of regular aerial inspections by police helicopters.

The reward for the government’s efforts was an improvement in the number of “good air days” in the city.

The environment bureau said Shanghai had 281 days of “excellent” or “good” air quality in 2014, an increase of 11 percent from 2013.

To achieve such a rating, the air quality index has to fall below 100.

According to official figures, just 84 days were classed as polluted in the year — down from 124 in 2013 — while four days saw heavy pollution, with an AQI reading of between 201 and 300. There were no days on which severe pollution (or an AQI above 500) was recorded.

As well as the improvements resulting from fewer heavy-polluting vehicles and a reduction in the use of coal for industry, Shanghai last year experienced fewer days with “extreme” weather conditions, which would have affected the diffusion of local pollutants, the bureau said.

Tiny PM2.5 particles remained the main air pollutant in the year, with an average density across the 12 months of 52 micrograms per cubic meter. While the figure was 16 percent lower than in 2013, it remained five times the standard set by the World Health Organization.

The WHO’s safe levels for PM2.5 are no more than 25 micrograms per cubic meter within a 24-hour period, and 10 micrograms per cubic meter as an average over a full year.

The corresponding figures set by the Chinese government are 75 and 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

The average density of other air pollutants, including PM10, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, last year fell to their lowest levels since 2001.

As well as its pledge to tackle vehicle emissions, the bureau said there remains room for improvement in cutting pollution from industry, particularly in the catering, dry cleaning and vehicle maintenance sectors.

The agency will also seek support from district and county governments, especially in suburban areas, in building up a network of environmental inspectors.

“At present we rely heavily on tip-offs from the public about pollution violations and illegal discharges by factories,” Luo said.

“So we are encouraging district and county governments to help us create a more effective and wider reaching network,” he said.

“The battle against air pollution is a long-term one, and while we are encouraged by our successes in 2014, there is also a lot of pressure on us to achieve even more,” he said.


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