Beijing and surrounding areas have been mostly blessed with blue skies this winter, after massive reductions in air pollutants. But that may change this month as the wind dies down, according to forecasts.
The weather in late January and mid-February is unlikely to help in dispersing pollution, with temperatures expected to be above average compared with the past 30 years and less snow, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Wednesday.
This means the air will stay stable in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, with less wind and a greater risk of smoggy days.
"In December, the temperature in China was 1 degree higher than average (for the past 30 years), and other indicators show this winter may have been warmer," said Song Wenling, chief forecaster for the National Climate Center.
In response, "local governments need to strengthen pollution controls to further cut emissions and make sure they reach their goals on air quality improvement", the ministry said in a statement.
Twenty-eight major cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the neighboring provinces of Shandong, Shanxi and Henan set targets to cut air pollution from October to March and reduce winter smog. Based on these targets, the average PM2.5 concentration was to fall by up to 25 percent year-on-year, according to the ministry.
"All the cities saw a dramatic decline in PM2.5 levels from October to December, meaning they all met their reduction targets," the statement said.
PM2.5 refers to fine particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns that are hazardous to human health and is one of the major indicators of air quality in China.
Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, saw a 54.1 percent reduction in PM2.5-the largest among the 28 cities-according to ministry data. Next came Beijing with 53.8 percent.
In the capital, the average daily PM2.5 level was a record 49 micrograms per cubic meter, the same as in summer.
To reach their targets, local governments introduced measures such as phasing out polluting companies and placing restrictions on coal consumption.
The ministry also sent inspectors to cities to search for environmental violations and supervise local environmental protection officials, releasing the results on a daily basis.
The latest inspection results show that 32 of the 861 companies visited on Tuesday across the 28 cities had breached regulations, including eight factories that had not installed facilities to reduce emissions, the ministry said.