Crackdown on food outlets yields improved air quality

BEIJING: A city in Henan province regularly hit by smog has seen improvement in its air quality after a controversial crackdown that included the closure of smoky snack stands and restaurants, officials said.

The Shangqiu government introduced a series of tough measures after the Ministry of Environmental Protection summoned its leaders, along with those from four other heavily polluted cities, on April 28.

According to an official statement, as of last Thursday, the city’s average concentration of PM2.5 – tiny pollutant particles that can harm human health – had fallen by 3.4% month on month to 56 micrograms per cubic metre.

The average PM10 level was 82 micrograms per cubic metre, down by 19.6% month on month.

“There has been significant improvement in the environmental quality” after a citywide campaign and “the blue skies with white clouds, unseen for a long time, are now back,” the statement quoted an unnamed official as saying.

The campaign was based on nine measures, including controlling dust, a ban on burning straw and removing from the roads any vehicles that do not meet the national exhaust emissions standard.

But a move to close polluting restaurants led to complaints online that it had affected residents’ lives.

Zhang Hanxin, 28, said she now finds it hard to buy traditional local foods such as steamed bread and cold noodles near her home.

“There are very few snack stalls left nearby,” she said. “The street used to be busy and lively, but now it looks very quiet.”

Zhang Fuyi from the city’s publicity department said open roadside markets and outdoor barbecue stands had been cleaned up, while restaurants that used coal or did not have the right purification facilities for cooking fumes were closed down until they met the standards. — China Daily / Asia News Network

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