BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China will work to improve the monitoring of emissions from heavy industries like steel, coal-fired power generation, coke and chemicals in key regions over the coming three years, stepping up an already-intensive campaign to tackle smog.
"There remain some outstanding problems in environmental monitoring, such as repeated data forgery and illicit administrative intervention," the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) said in a statement on Friday.
China has been trying to crack down on fraudulent data reporting and the misuse and manipulation of monitoring equipment. Since issuing new rules last year, it has exposed dozens of cases and punished hundreds of officials.
However, a report to China's parliament in July warned that there were still enforcement "gaps" and a shortage of monitoring points in some regions.
This week the MEE castigated officials in the city of Linfen in the major coal-producing province of Shanxi province for deliberately interfering with air pollution monitoring stations on nearly 100 occasions in the past year.
According to the Friday statement, China aims to ensure that environmental monitoring data is "accurate, genuine, objective and comprehensive" and wants monitoring institutes and staff to be completely independent of local governments by 2020.
China already has set up a total of 1,436 state-controlled monitoring stations in 338 cities since 2012, and plans to install even more equipment to provide a more detailed picture of pollution across the country.
It also aims to plug all major polluters into a real-time, online monitoring system by the end of the year. Eventually it aims to extend the system to all industrial enterprises, allowing authorities to detect and treat excess emissions almost immediately.
Steel mills, paper makers, coal-fired heat and power generators, chemical producers and urban sewage disposal plants in the smog-prone Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River delta and Fenwei plain regions will be the main target of the latest campaign.
The MEE also plans to randomly select around 200 environmental monitoring institutes across the country every year to check their qualifications and operations.
Inspections will focus on air pollution monitoring this year, water pollution in 2019 and remaining issues in 2020.
The ministry said it will also urge local authorities to draw up their own regional plans to coordinate with Beijing's efforts.
(Reporting by Muyu Xu in BEIJING and David Stanway in SHANGHAI; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)