Government’s Approach for Preventing Air Pollution Problem in China’s Henan Province

Md. Ziaul Islam1*, Jie Zhang1, Shuwei Wang2

Henan which is an inland province and one of the densely populated provinces in China is facing serious air pollution problem due to industrialization advancement. As the most crucial component of the Central Plain Urban Agglomeration (CPUA) region, Henan province has been one of the most severely polluted regions in China in recent years. The air quality of Henan province was among the worst in all the provinces in China, and its provincial capital city, Zhengzhou, was listed among “the top ten worst for air quality” in China from 2013 to 2017. Air pollution in China’s heavy-industrial province of Henan gets worsened in December even as other regions improved. Along with the rapid economic development and urbanization in China, air pollution has become particularly severe lately.

Henan, a major coal and metal producer in central China, is under heavy pressure to curb pollution and restructure its industrial economy as Beijing’s five-year “war on pollution” expands to more regions. It promised late last year that it would work to slash coal consumption by 15 per cent by 2020, but many of its mining-dependent cities are struggling to find alternative sources of growth. The heavy industrial Chinese province of Henan met its target to cut air pollution in 2018, but underperformed the country as a whole after a surge in smog over winter, underscoring the challenges facing coal-dependent regions as the economy slows. Henan still trails on air pollution as winter brings more smog. China is restricting industrial output, traffic and coal consumption in the smog-prone north for a second year in a bid to cut pollution during the winter heating period, when thousands of mainly coal-burning boilers are switched on.

Moreover, China is intensifying efforts to fight against pollution and environmental degradation after decades of growth left the country saddled with problems such as smog and contaminated soil. China’s environmental watchdog held talks with government leaders from six cities including Anyang and Puyang cities of central Henan Province for failures to tackle pollution, breaching regulations and even faking data. The air quality in the six cities was deteriorated during last autumn and winter due to sluggish efforts on controlling pollution, with an increased average density of PM2.5, said the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE).  However, ambient air quality is still a major concern in China since severe and persistent air pollution in different regions remains an obstacle to public health, economic growth, public safety, and social stability.

Prevalence of Air Pollution

As the fastest-growing major economy in the world, China has been increasingly threatened by environmental deterioration due to rapid economic growth, unprecedented urbanization, and climatic conditions in the past three decades.  Henan is an important economically developing region though its economy mainly based on agriculture. The environmental problems particularly air pollution are more acute in China’s Henan province due to various factors. Urban expansion, economic growth and irrational economic structure, high energy consumption and unreasonable energy structure were supposed to be the three main reasons for these trends.

The Fen-Wei plain is a key battleground in China’s war on smog. Comprising the Fen and Wei river plains, both parts of the Yellow river basin, it includes sections of the central provinces Shaanxi, Shanxi and Henan, notably the city of Xi’an. Air pollution clean-up efforts here lag 5-6 years behind other regions, according to Liu Bingjiang, of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE). In 2018, average PM2.5 was 58 micrograms per cubic metre, just 5% less than 2015. When the MEE released air pollution rankings for 169 key Chinese cities in 2018, six of the Fen-Wei plane’s 11 prefecture-level cities placed in the bottom 20. The Fen-Wei plain which is home to much heavy industry: aluminum smelters, coking plants, steel mills and coal-to-chemical plants and far behind other regions, in terms of effort put in and results achieved. These tend to be smaller businesses with poor-quality equipment; the majority is unable to meet emissions standards consistently. Quick, fair solutions are hard to come by.

To understand the air pollution characteristics and its health risks, Fuzhen Shen (2017) analyzed the data of 18 cities in Henan province from 2014-2016 and found that serious air pollution status in Henan province, especially the northern part, and Zhengzhou is the city with the worst air quality. Annual average PM2.5 concentrations exceed the second grade of Chinese Ambient Air Quality Standard (75 μg/m3) at both 2014 and 2015. Due to the development of tertiary industry and restrictions on industry, the levels of air pollution in Henan province were significantly positively correlated to the ratios of tertiary industry (p < 0.01),  while there were significantly negative correlations between pollution levels and the ratios of primary  industry or secondary industry (p < 0.01).

In addition, it was the regional synergistic effects for air pollutants emission that caused the air pollution status in Henan province to be more significant, since air pollution in the surrounding province, such as Hebei province, Shanxi province, and Shandong province were always serious in the past years.

Initiatives of Central and Local Government

The air pollution problem in central China’s Henan province is more vulnerable along with its neighboring provinces and is more serious in northern Henan, in

cluding its provincial capital Zhengzhou. Zhengzhou city has been identified owning the worst air quality. PM2.5 was typically the major pollutant following by PM10 and O3 for most cities in Henan. Although air quality index is relatively better in the summer but in other seasons due to ozone pollution the air pollution becomes more serious. To pay attention to this issue, the Provincial Pollution Prevention and Control Office of Henan province issued a comprehensive treatment plan in November 2019 for air pollution in autumn and winter, and put forward clear requirements for various tasks.

Henan government sets the air quality improvement goal in autumn and winter is divided into two stages. The first is the goal of improving air quality throughout the autumn and winter, that is, from October 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, the province’s average PM2.5 concentration will drop by more than 11.9% year-on-year. The second is the improvement goal for the first quarter of 2020, that is, from January 1 to March 31, 2020, the province’s average PM2.5 concentration will drop by more than 11.1% year-on-year.

To reduce the detrimental effects of air pollution, local government along with central government already have enacted many laws and policies; but, the air pollution problem is still in acute level.

Concerning the growing air pollution problems across the country and to mitigate air pollution levels, the Chinese government rolled out the Action Plan for Air Pollution Prevention and Control in 2013. ” For preventing air pollution Government also has enacted the “Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan, 2013”, the “The 13th Five Year Plan 2016-2020”, “the Law on Prevention and Control of Air Pollution (Air Law), 2015”, “The Ambient Air Quality Standards, GB 3095-2012”, and the “ Three-year Action Plan 2018-2020.

Henan government also has taken many steps along with central government to combat air pollution, such as the Mengjin County Environmental Protection Bureau has adopted three measures to control air pollution: one is to deepend the governance of industrial enterprises; the second is to promote the disclosure of monitoring information; and, the third is to strengthen the emission control of mobile sources.

Regulations of Henan Province on the Prevention and Control of Air Pollution was passed in 2017 in order to protect and improve the atmospheric environment, prevent and control atmospheric pollution, protect public health, promote the construction of ecological civilization, and promote green and sustainable economic and social development. To lessen air pollution a series of measures are taken that includes end-of-pipe emission technologies exploitation, fuel consumption efficiencies improvement, implementation of industrial energy-saving and emission-reduction policies. In Article 26 of China’s Constitution, environmental protection, ecological conservation and preservation of natural resources are proclaimed as the nation’s mission, and this is the basis of all environmental laws and regulations in China. 

Environment protection has become a prime concern in China. Lack of environmental protection due to different types of pollution threatens the life of the people and other animals. Environmental protection generally relates to the protection of physical surroundings such as forest, trees, plants, wetlands, animals etc. But, overall environmental protection also needs to include the social, psychological and the moral values. Without protecting those aspects complete environmental protection will not possible. Although Central government and local government have formulated many laws and policies to prevent air pollution and it’s after consequences in China’s Henan province, but such laws and regulations alone cannot minimize the aggression of air pollution unless the ideal and social customs are added there. Therefore, it is very urgent to simultaneously prevention of air pollution by cultivating social customs and legal culture across the country.

Authors; School of Economic Law, Shanghai University of Political Science and Law,Shanghai-201701, China.


%d bloggers like this: