Despite some recent progress in Beijing and other big cities, most mainland cities have still not made a sincere effort to improve transparency about their air pollution problems, according to a study.
The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs’ survey of 113 cities found 78, including many provincial capitals and major industrial hubs, had yet to release information on fine airborne particulate, such as PM2.5.
Increasing concern about PM 2.5 – particles matter less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter which, because they are so fine, can lodge deep in the lungs – spurred a national outcry at the government secrecy surrounding smog problems.
That led to a major overhaul of outdated clean-air standards.
“This is a reality check,” said Ma Jun , director of the Beijing-based institute. “We’ve seen some breakthroughs in Beijing and Guangdong as a result of the stricter pollution limits, but we also clearly see a widening gap between different regions.”
Of the 55 cities that began to publish PM2.5 readings this year, Beijing and some Pearl River Delta cities ranked best owing to their strides in disclosing PM2.5 data and giving ample, up-to-the-hour information from dozens of monitoring stations.
Beijing, which in January became the first to publish readings of the smog-inducing particles, ranked fifth, with a score of 65 out of 100, on the institute’s Air Quality Transparency Index. The study used official statistics from January and June.
Ma noted the capital’s ranking and score would have seen big rises if its move earlier this month to increase to 35 the number of monitoring centres for more than a dozen pollutants had been considered.
Dongguan , Foshan , Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhongshan and Zhuhai rounded out the top seven cities, thanks to the country’s largest air-quality-detection network, which was launched in March and consists of 17 stations.
While Shanghai and cities in Fujian , Jiangsu and Zhejiang have also begun publishing air pollution data, transparency remains poor nationwide. The average score of all 113 cities – mostly municipalities, industrial hubs and provincial capitals – was 21.5 on the index.
Disclosure was limited in the vast central, northern and western regions, with authorities continuing to ignore mounting public concern over rampant air pollution, the study found.
Some 80 cities scored less than 20 per cent; cities in Shandong , one of the nation’s industrial powerhouses, did particularly poorly.
“We know transparency is only the first step in the long journey towards tackling the real pollution problems and we also need to improve the quality of the data to address discrepancies between official monitoring data and public feelings,” Ma said.SCMP