Beijing: China, the world`s largest emitter of green house gases, has approved a whopping USD 277 billion plan to control and reduce air pollution by 2017.
Zhao Hualin, head of the pollution prevention and control department of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said yesterday that the central cabinet has approved the Airborne Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan (2013-17).
It will be the second plan to tackle pollution in the past two years and will be backed by 1,700 billion yuan (USD 277 billion) in total investments from the central government, state-run China Daily quoted him as saying.
Wang Jinnan, vice-president of the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, who participated in drafting the plan, said the new programme will give priority to regions that have heavy air pollution and high levels of PM 2.5 - particulate matter that is 2.5 microns or less in diameter and that harms the respiratory system more than larger particles.
The new plan specifically targets North China, particularly Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province, which reeled under polluted haze in most part of the year.
Zhao said more details will be released in late July at the earliest.
"The Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province area is the most stringently targeted because airborne pollution is most serious in this area," Wang said.
A previous prevention plan on airborne pollution in 13 key areas of China was released in late 2012.
Chai Fahe, vice-president of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, which is affiliated with China`s Ministry of Environmental Protection, said the nation`s top leaders realised that a tougher approach against air pollution was needed after releasing the plan in 2012.
Zhao said the latest plan will address airborne pollution prevention, water pollution control and improvements to the rural environment.
"The detailed cooperation plan is still under discussion," he said.
"Basic rules, such as unified law enforcement, monitoring and the release of data, are sure to be included," Zhao said.
Many cities have already announced their updated targets to control PM 2.5.
The target for Beijing is keeping the concentration of PM 2.5 at around 60 micrograms per cubic meter by 2017, a level about 25 percent lower than 2012 levels, said Zhang Gong, deputy mayor of Beijing said.
Officials from Shanghai and Tianjin have vowed that by 2017 their PM 2.5 levels will be reduced by 20 per cent compared with 2012 levels.
Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei, has promised to reduce emissions by 30 per cent from 2012 levels.
"The thick smog and haze that covered large areas of the country in January has focused public attention on this issue," Zhao said.