Smog-stricken Hebei to cut steel, iron capacity in 2017

Cold front clears smog in Shijiazhuang, China’s Hebei [Photo/Xinhua] 

Northern China’s Hebei Province has pledged to continue to cut steel and iron capacity in 2017, in a bid to counter the severe smog that often envelopes the province for days on end.

Yuan Tongli, vice governor of the province, introduced on Saturday a spate of measures for the province to undertake in 2017 to combat smog, including cutting 15.62 million tons of steel capacity and 16.24 million tons of iron capacity.

The province has faced severe air pollution in recent years, especially PM2.5, or fine particulates that are believed to be particularly dangerous to human health. The province issued a total of three red alerts — the highest alert in China’s three-tier early warning system for smog — and four less severe orange alerts in 2016. In a latest report published by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, six out ten of the country’s worst air-polluted cities are in Hebei.

High-emission and high-polluting industries are believed to play a major role in Hebei’s air problems, while overcapacity in those industries is also believed to weigh on the province’s economic growth. The province has therefore carried out what’s dubbed “6643” projects since 2013, according to the vice governor. It aims at cutting 60 million tons of steel capacity, 40 million tons of coal consumption, 61 million tons of cement capacity and 36 million weight cases of flat glass from 2013 to 2017. The province has been steady in meeting its targets: Steel, iron, cement and flat glass have been reduced by respectively 44.38 million tons, 43.76 million tons, 65.17 million tons and 59.06 million weight cases from 2013 to 2016, Yuan said.

Once the heartland of China’s steel production and taking up about one fourth of the country’s total output, the steel industry was replaced by equipment manufacturing as the province’s pillar industry for the first time in 2016, according to Yuan.

Efforts in combating air pollution have paid off, Yuan said. The province registered 207 days of meeting the country’s air quality standards in 2016, an increase of 17 days from 2015 and 78 days from 2013. Average concentration of PM2.5 was 70 micrograms per cubic meter, a decrease of 35.2 percent from 2013.

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