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[SHANGHAI] Beijing's environmental watchdog levied fines totalling about 183 million yuan (US$27.76 million) for violations of pollution laws in the Chinese capital last year, the state news agency Xinhua said on Friday.
The agency did not offer a comparative full-year figure, but state media reported last year that the 100 million yuan Beijing collected in pollution fines in the first nine months of 2015 was almost twice the amount as the same period during 2014.
The ruling Communist Party has only in recent years begun to acknowledge the damage that decades of growth-at-all-costs economic development have done to China's skies, rivers and soil.
It is now trying to equip its environmental inspection offices with greater powers and more resources to tackle persistent polluters and local governments that protect them.
An amended air pollution law, passed by the legislature in August, grants the state new powers to punish offenders and create a legal framework to cap coal consumption, the Asian giant's biggest source of smog.
Xinhua said the fines included 44 million yuan in nearly 2,000 cases involving air pollution, which has become a hot-button issue in the Chinese capital and other cities frequently engulfed in hazardous smog that worsens during winter.
The authorities imposed fines of 72 million yuan for 181 infringements relating to water and other areas, the news agency quoted the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau as saying.
Beijing has put nearly 20,000 pollution sources in key industries under "strict supervision", the bureau said without elaborating.
Beijing's average density of PM2.5 - airborne particulate matter under 2.5 microns in diameter that can penetrate deep into the lungs - from Nov 15 to Dec 31 rose 75.9 percent year-on-year, despite improvement in air quality throughout 2015, Xinhua said, quoting official monitoring.