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China's smog-prone north must guarantee winter heat: vice-premier

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The smog-prone northern Chinese region of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei must ensure residents have enough heating this winter, even as it switches thousands of households from coal to cleaner natural gas, Vice Premier Han Zheng said.

[SHANGHAI] The smog-prone northern Chinese region of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei must ensure residents have enough heating this winter, even as it switches thousands of households from coal to cleaner natural gas, Vice Premier Han Zheng said.

Mr Han, who leads a cross-ministerial committee to tackle pollution in the region, warned local officials that it was "absolutely forbidden" to dismantle boilers and leave households without a source of heat, the Xinhua news agency reported late on Thursday.

Parts of the region, traditionally one of China's most polluted, were left without heating last year after governments demolished coal-burning boilers but failed to secure sufficient quantities of natural gas as a replacement fuel.

Local governments were accused of adopting "one size fits all" policies and failing to take account of local conditions.

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The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region is one of China's most industrialised, with Hebei province producing nearly a quarter of the country's steel. It has been on the front line of the country's war on pollution for more than four years.

The region is about to embark on another tough winter campaign against smog, with inspectors set to force industrial factories to curb output if they have not done enough to clean up their operations.

Average emissions over January to September of hazardous floating particles known as PM2.5 fell 33 per cent from the same period last year after a campaign to clean up industry and curb coal use, according to data published on Thursday.

According to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, PM2.5 in 28 cities in the region reached an average of 36 micrograms per cubic metre over the nine months. It just fell short of the state standard of 35 micrograms.

In the first three quarters of 2018, Hebei was home to four of China's 10 cities with the poorest air quality, down from six cities in 2017, the Thursday data showed.

REUTERS