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China plans more nuanced anti-pollution measures in 2019 - ministry

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By Reuters
China plans more nuanced anti-pollution measures in 2019 - ministry
FILE PHOTO - A man wearing a mask walks in the central business district on a polluted day after a yellow alert was issued for smog, in Beijing, China November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo   -   Copyright  Jason Lee(Reuters)

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will adopt more efficient and targeted measures during its campaign against pollution next year, but will not relax the targets or ease the crackdown on violators, the environment ministry said in a statement on Monday night.

The push for new measures follows an annual meeting of top leaders last week which noted that the world’s second-largest economy is facing downward pressures.

“We will coordinate environmental protection with economic development and avoid simple and brutal forces to deal with violations,” the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) said in a statement.

The ministry urged local environmental bureaus to help companies set pollution treatment solution plans and to pay attention to reasonable appeals of companies during environmental inspections.

Beijing has ditched blanket production cuts on heavy industry as part of its anti-pollution campaign and allowed local authorities to adopt measures based on regional emission levels. However, declining air quality in the past two months in northern China has stirred concerns that the government is easing up on violations.

The ministry did not disclose the air quality situation across 169 monitored cities in November.

However, Hebei province found that the average concentration of particulate matter smaller that 2.5 microns (PM2.5), dangerous because it can penetrate deep into the lungs, in all of its 11 cities rose in November compared to a year earlier, according to a statement from the Hebei Environment Protection Bureau on Monday.

“China’s environmental protection campaign is facing multiple pressures…Some regions have weakened their cognition of the significance of the environment amid economic downstream pressure and we have seen imbalanced work progress in different places,” said the MEE.

The MEE has scheduled a second round of national environmental inspections in 2019, and vowed to win the war against air pollution and promote water and soil protection.

In a separate statement on Tuesday, the MEE said it has issued 166,210 notices of penalty decisions to environmental regulation violators, with fines totalling 13.6 billion yuan ($1.98 billion) in the first 11 months this year.

(Reporting by Muyu Xu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)