China says rules against pollution will be tightened

TURNING TIDE?:With January’s air pollution density 20 times higher than what is considered safe by the WHO, Beijing has said it will hold dirty businesses to account

AP, BEIJING

Mon, Mar 10, 2014 - Page 5

China will tighten environmental legislation and force polluters to pay compensation following renewed blasts of toxic air.

China’s National People’s Congress head Zhang Dejiang (張德江) yesterday said in a report to the legislature’s annual session that businesses were responsible for the environmental damage they caused and must be held to account.

He said legal revisions were being prepared, but offered no specifics, adding that changes are also needed to supervise emissions and control pollution at the source.

In January, air pollution density readings of PM 2.5 particles exceeded 500 micrograms per cubic meter, which was about 20 times higher than the levels considered safe by the WHO.

Heavy pollution has lingered over much of northern China through last month and this month, leading to increased hospitalizations for heart and breathing problems, and forcing schools to cancel outdoor events.

Heavy smog has also been blamed for disrupting air transport and retarding the growth of crops by blocking out the sun.

Zhang’s 90-minute speech to the congress is his only national address and is usually scrutinized for any sign of changes to China’s one-party Marxist-Leninist political system — something past leaders have ruled out entirely.

This year’s address offered routine support for the current system in which the 3,000-member parliament meets for a few days per year, while legislative business is handled by its about 175-member Standing Committee.