Officials in China’s steelmaking hub have vowed to crack down on illicit emissions after two weeks of heavy smog across northern China.
In an emergency municipal meeting on Saturday night, Li Guifu, the vice mayor of Tangshan, a city in Hebei, ordered factories to limit or halt production on days when a heavy pollution alert was in place to reduce the overall emissions of air pollutants such as sulphuric dioxide or nitrogen oxide by 50 per cent.
Li issued the warning after a surprise inspection by central government found four plants had failed to comply with regulations.
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Li told all factories to follow the city’s environmental protection plan, and warned that any steel and cement plants that fail to do so will have their pollutant discharge permits revoked and production suspended.
He added that the consequences of failing to meet the requirements also include detention or criminal liability for the plant owner, adding that the plants and their owner will be “exposed by media outlets” and added to the social credit blacklist.
Tangshan is one of China’s most polluted cities because of the heavy industries and the smog it emits also affects the air in Beijing which is less than 200km (120 miles) away.
According to the environment ministry’s figures, the 10 cities with the worst air quality in China last year were all in Hebei or the neighbouring municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment conducted a surprise investigation into four mills in Tangshan and found that they had failed to curb production as required during the heavy pollution alert.
The local authorities were then told they should crack down on violations of the environmental rules, prompting Saturday’s emergency meeting.
The four mills were all fined 1 million yuan (US$153,600) each and had their discharge permits revoked, according to a statement by the city government. The “persons responsible” have also been detained.
Last month, Tangshan’s municipal ecology and environmental bureau introduced a pilot programme to cut emissions from its steel industry by 40 per cent this year.
That would be equivalent to a reduction of more than 53.2 million tons of pig iron and more than 57.6 million tons of crude steel output in the city, according to an estimate by Lange Steel, a Beijing-based trading and information service provider.
Demand for steel is expected to rise as China’s economy continues its rapid recovery from the Covid-19 outbreak. Prices for the commodity have been rising for the past four weeks, with the steel price index rising 1.03 per cent week-on-week, 9.15 per cent month-on-month and 34.08 per cent year-on-year, according to Lange Steel.
Meanwhile, the central government has set a target of all but eliminating days when heavy pollution alerts are issued by 2025.
This article China’s steel city Tangshan vows to crack down on pollution after weeks of heavy smog first appeared on South China Morning Post