Shanghai (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Smog levels rose 20 per cent in the Yangtze River Delta, near Shanghai, in January, official data showed on Monday, raising fears that the pollution crackdown in northern China has forced heavy industry to move further south.
PM2.5 concentrations in the delta region registered an average of 72 micrograms, more than seven times the WHO’s recommended level of 10 micrograms.
PM2.5 levels were unusually high in the first two months of last year, which prompted dozens of cities to declare a “red alert” and impose emergency traffic restrictions, like closing factories and schools.
In order to cope with the pollution spike, 28 northern Chinese cities pledged to cut PM2.5 by 10-25 per cent between October 2017 and March 2018.
This led to an average fall in PM2.5 emissions of 33 per cent to 64 micrograms per cubic metre, which is still more than six times the level recommended by the World Health Organisation.
In August, the country’s rising lung cancer rate due to air pollution set off alarm bells.
The Pearl River Delta region around Hong Kong also saw PM2.5 rise 3.9 per cent year on year.
An ambitious plan to convert millions of households from coal- to natural gas-fired heating has also proved a major challenge, with many villages left without gas supplies during parts of the freezing winter.