No excuse for not acting to curb smog - ENVIRONMENT - Humanrights

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No excuse for not acting to curb smog
November 09,2016   By:China Daily
Nov. 9, 2016 -- The ministry of environmental protection recently issued a notice criticizing some northern cities, including Daqing and Harbin in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, for understating the severity of the air pollution in the past few days. Beijing News commented on Tuesday:
 
The strongly worded notice from the ministry is more than justifiable, because governments at all levels are obliged to make adequate preparations for smog and initiate emergency plans when it is severe. However, Daqing, where the air quality index readings were 500 for 24 hours and where severe air pollution lasted for about 37 hours, only registered one day of heavy pollution and issued an orange alert instead of a red alert. Harbin also declared its air pollution was less severe than it was.
 
True, emergency plans are unlikely to eliminate the smog completely, but they do make a difference and help reduce heavy smog. Regretfully, the Daqing government refused to enforce the necessary measures to reduce the severity of the air pollution and warn residents of the high air pollution.
 
In fact, the coal-burning utilities near the city and other neighboring cities in the province were responsible for the recent smog in northern China, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
 
The governments of the smog-stricken cities must mean what they say when it comes to fighting air pollution. Institutional and long-term efforts are called for to bring back blue skies, yet timely responses are just as important when heavy smog hits. The former can take time to take effect and the latter should be available at all times.
 
That some local governments refrain from activating the emergency plans for extreme air pollution even when the pollution can be seen to be severe is, to some extent, just as worrying as the smog itself. Their actions could deal a heavy blow to public confidence in the fight against pollution.
 
As Chen Jining, minister of environmental protection, said last year, officials who implement insufficient and untimely emergency measures should be held accountable and given due punishments. The recent notice censuring irresponsible officials should be heeded by all local governments to improve their governance.
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