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China to more than double air monitoring network
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 15, 2013

Shanghai finds another 800 dead pigs in river
Beijing (AFP) March 15, 2013 - Shanghai fished another 809 dead pigs out of its main waterway on Friday, bringing the total carcasses found this week to 8,300 in a scandal that has spotlighted China's troubles with food safety.

The swine effluent discovered flowing down the Huangpu river -- which supplies a fifth of the commercial hub's drinking water -- has added the country's most popular meat to a growing list of food items rocked by scandal.

"As of 3:00 pm today, another 809 floating dead pigs have been fished out," Shanghai authorities said on their Weibo account, a service similar to Twitter.

It gave assurances that authorities had not found any substandard pork products on the market and were closely monitoring water quality.

Shanghai has blamed farmers in neighbouring Zhejiang province for casting pigs thought to have died of disease into the river upstream, although officials from the area have admitted to only a single producer doing so.

Pork accounted for 64 percent of total meat output last year, and China's increasingly wealthy urban residents consumed 21 kilograms (45 pounds) of the meat per person in 2011.

Despite laws against the practice, animals that die from disease in China can end up in the food supply chain or improperly disposed of.

China faced one its biggest food-safety scandals in 2008 when the industrial chemical melamine was found to have been illegally added to dairy products, killing at least six babies and making 300,000 people ill.

Cheap recycled cooking oil is available nationwide, made illegally from leftovers scooped out of restaurant drains. Amid public disgust, authorities arrested more than 30 people over its sale, but the practise continues.

In another recent incident, the American fast-food giant KFC faced controversy after revealing that some Chinese suppliers provided chicken with high levels of antibiotics, in what appeared to be an industry-wide practice.

China will more than double the number of cities covered by air quality monitoring, a top environment official said Friday, as part of efforts to tackle heavy smog that has sparked huge public anger.

Swathes of acrid haze have repeatedly shrouded large parts of the country in recent months, provoking outrage among Internet users and unusually outspoken calls for action in state-run media.

By the end of this year China will release statistics for concentrations of PM2.5 -- tiny particles that penetrate deep into the lungs -- in a total of 190 cities, up from 74 in January, said Wu Xiaoqing, a vice minister of environmental protection.

The move "will provide an effective measure to supervise local governments at all levels to make up their mind in addressing air pollution," he said on the sidelines of China's annual parliament session, the National People's Congress.

China's leaders have repeatedly stated the importance of cutting pollution, but responsibility for reducing emissions falls to bureaucrats at local levels, where economic growth usually takes precedence and laws can be compromised by bribery.

The move would help people "learn about local air quality in a timely, faithful and accurate manner", Wu added.

He said the government had set a target to cut the PM2.5 density by six percent by 2015 from 2010 levels in key areas including Beijing and the industrial powerhouses of the Pearl and Yangtze river deltas.

During recent bouts of pollution the capital has seen particulate levels almost 40 times World Health Organisation (WHO) limits, and the pollution is inflicting a heavy toll on both human health and economic activity.

Nearly half of China's emissions of PM2.5 come from coal burning, with the rest mostly from vehicle emissions and construction.

The US embassy in Beijing releases its own pollution data for readings from its monitor which sometimes differ from official figures.


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