China punishes officials for tampering with smog monitoring

This is a May 7, 2013 file photo of a foreign tourist wearing a mask walks in front of Tiananmen Gate on a polluted day in Beijing, China. (AP)
Updated 15 January 2018
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China punishes officials for tampering with smog monitoring

SHANGHAI: China has punished officials in the provinces of Jiangxi and Henan for tampering with pollution monitoring equipment in order to reduce smog readings, the environment ministry said in a notice on Sunday.
China has been waging a “war on pollution” since 2014 in a bid to reverse the environmental and political damage done by more than three decades of untrammelled economic growth, but enforcement has been a constant problem.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) said officials in the cities of Xinyu in Jiangxi and Xinyang in Henan, sought to reduce emissions readings by spraying water on their air quality sensors.
Both cities are major producers of polluting and energy-intensive nonferrous metals like aluminum and copper.
The two local governments said the officials responsible were dismissed or subjected to “administrative” punishments.
“Regardless of whether they deny deliberately tampering and whether or not it has an obvious impact on emissions data, spraying water on air quality monitoring sampling points... disrupts the normal operations of air quality monitoring,” the ministry said on Sunday.
The MEP has tried to establish a real-time nationwide emissions monitoring system to help fight against pollution and ensure its rules are being enforced throughout the country.
But it has also been forced to crack down on the widespread falsification of data, with local officials accused of trying to evade responsibility by misusing or disabling monitoring equipment. Some firms have also sought to evade monitoring by operating only at night.
The ministry has sought to reduce “administrative interference” in its emissions data by bringing all its 1,436 monitoring stations under central government control and denying local authorities access to the equipment.
This isn’t the first time Henan has been castigated for failing to maintain the integrity of its air quality data, with the ministry accusing local firms of providing fraudulent emissions figures in March last year.
Local environmental officials in the northwestern city of Xian have also been punished for stuffing sensors with cotton and removing surveillance tapes.


German city of Hamburg ato restrict older diesel vehicles

A car passes a traffic sign showing a ban on diesel cars at the Max-Brauer Allee in downtown Hamburg, Germany, on May 23, 2018. (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)
Updated 27 min 20 sec ago
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German city of Hamburg ato restrict older diesel vehicles

  • Diesel bans will affect two streets, non-Euro-6 models
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.

BERLIN: Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, will ban the most polluting diesel vehicles from two major streets from next week, a move that could spur others to follow suit and raise pressure on carmakers to consider costly vehicle refits.
Hamburg, home to around 1.8 million people, said on Wednesday the ban would start on May 31 and affect diesel models that do not meet the latest Euro-6 emissions standards.
This follows a ruling in February by Germany’s top administrative court that the cities of Stuttgart and Duesseldorf should consider bans for older diesels.
The detailed publication of that ruling last Friday showed local authorities were entitled to implement targeted bans with immediate effect to bring air pollution levels into line with European Union rules, although curbs affecting wider city areas should only be phased in over time.
Bans on diesel vehicles from city centers are also planned in Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens by 2025, while the mayor of Copenhagen wants to bar new diesel cars from entering the city center as soon as next year.
Since the German ruling was disclosed, the environment minister of Germany’s northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein, has said banning older diesel vehicles could also be an option for the regional capital Kiel, a city of about 250,000 people.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.
Environment Minister Svenja Schulze — a member of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel’s coalition government — urged carmakers to roll out retrofits for diesel cars to lower emissions. “Driving bans like those in Hamburg show how serious the situation is,” she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “It’s up to the car industry now.”
Levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emitted by diesel engines and known to cause respiratory disease should fall significantly as more efficient Euro-6 models are sold and emissions-cleaning software updates take effect, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.
The bans in Hamburg affect a section of about 1.6 km (one mile) on Stresemannstrasse, where the restrictions will apply only to commercial vehicles weighing 3.5 tons or more, and a section of about 580 meters on Max-Brauer-Allee, covering all diesel vehicles.
Both thoroughfares are in Altona, a busy district in the west of the city.
Drivers aiming for a destination on the two affected streets, including residents, trash collectors, suppliers and taxis, will be exempt from the restrictions as they are designed to filter out through traffic, a spokesman for Hamburg’s environment and energy department said.
Of the 330,000 diesel cars on Hamburg’s roads, only about 116,000 have the Euro-6 technology that was introduced in 2014, according to local government data.
Police will make random checks and fine drivers of older diesel cars 25 euros ($30) and truck owners up to 75 euros for violating the new rules, he said.