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China vows crackdown as air quality worsened in first quarter

Chinese cities vow to ramp up efforts to combat pollution after reprimand

BEIJING:  China's smoggiest cities have pledged to ramp up the battle against pollution after air quality deteriorated in the first few months of this year, the China Daily reported yesterday, as smog blanketed the capital, Beijing, and the surrounding region.

Top officials from seven districts in Beijing, Tianjin and cities in Hebei and Shanxi provinces were reprimanded at the weekend by the environmental watchdog for lax control of pollution this year, the paper said.

The officials promised to submit plans to the Ministry of Environmental Protection to resolve the problem within 20 days, it said.

In the first quarter, air quality deteriorated in the districts and cities, according to the ministry.

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On Saturday, Hebei, the northern province home to six of China's 10 smoggiest cities in the first two months of this year, said it would take more action to shut "backward" coal-fired power plants, promote new energy vehicles and shift industries.

The province is on the frontline of a three-year "war on pollution" and has already promised to slash coal consumption and close inefficient industrial plants.

Yesterday, an orange alert was in effect in Tianjin, Tangshan and Langfang in Hebei province and Puyang and Anyang in central Henan, state news agency Xinhua said.

The orange alert, the second-highest level after red, means the air quality index (AQI), a measure of air pollutants, is forecast to exceed 150 for three consecutive days.

In Beijing, where the authorities issued a yellow alert, the AQI reading was 264, the city's environmental protection agency said. - REUTERS

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