Beijing experiences pollution-free winter amid widespread production suspension
While China's capital city is embracing the first-ever pollution-free winter for years, a recently released logistics report for the iron and steel industry indicates that productivity in the sector has been dented due to the policy of production restriction in north China this winter.

Observers suggest local governments should step up social aid for those who've lost jobs amid intensive measures to crack down on air pollution, while forecasting a niche market for pollution control business.

It was reported by the Beijing Daily earlier that the air quality was rated “excellent” or “good” on 32 of the 36 days between November 15, when the capital turned on its heating plants, and December 20, with an average PM2.5 reading of 38. For the same period in the previous four years, the average PM2.5 level was 93.

In 2013, the State Council, China's cabinet, initiated the Action Plan for Air Pollution Prevention and Control, vowing to contain the average PM2.5 level below 60 annually by 2017. To achieve the goal, Beijing has adopted a series of measures to combat air pollution in the year of 2017.

The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing and Planning Institute released an index report on December 31, indicating production of factories in the iron and steel sector has been slightly on decline this winter. The National Business Daily, a Chinese news portal quoted analysts as saying the strictly implemented measures in north China and provinces like Anhui and Jiangsu to shut down small polluting factories and limit production of bigger ones have mainly led to the result.

The law enforcement efforts for fighting pollution over the past year have been made for meeting the targets set by the action plan ending 2017, confirmed Luo Jianhua, deputy director of the China Environment Service Industry Association, an affiliation of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce.

The spate of measures include assigning over 5,600 law enforcement officers to shut down the polluting factories that have been sprawling in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province, and remodeling the coal-burning as the main source of heat in the area's over 300 million households.

Luo noted authorities are also giving warnings three days in advance in a bid for emergency measures to be adopted for dispersing air pollution. “In Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and neighboring areas, productions that may give rise to pollution have been limited or done in off-peak ways, while diesel vehicles with high emission have been banned,” he said.

The headlong law enforcement efforts to control air pollution have also given rise to concerns that economic development and people's livelihood may be affected as a result. It's reported by the National Business Daily that the GDP growth in the areas may be affected, with commodities' prices rising in recent days.

The price for iron and steel has reached a new high of over 5,000 yuan per ton, while natural gas price has increased from 4,000 yuan per ton to 7,000 yuan per ton. Some people also think that closing the high emission enterprises would cause unemployment, affecting local people's living standards.

Luo Jianhua suggested to step up with corresponding measures. “Supporting policies must be put in place if workers lose their jobs in polluting factories. The local governments should provide those laid-off personnel social aid or access to vocational training for them to regain employment.

Luo also noted that for those enterprises that had installed equipment to make pollutant discharge up to the standards, limit on production should be lifted. “Seeking development of high quality means to strike a balance between protecting the environment and developing economy should be the priority.”

According to Luo, enterprises that have done well in dealing with emissions and waste and those specializing in addressing industrial pollution would benefit from the situation. “The market will be created when most polluters would be reluctant to be shut down or suspend production. If they want to be back in business, they need to take steps to harness industrial pollution.”

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