China warns northern provinces to prepare for more heavy smog

SHANGHAI - China's environment ministry has warned northern regions to be ready to take emergency action as the country prepares for another onslaught of heavy smog.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection, in a notice published on Thursday, said heavy smog was expected in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, as well as the neighbouring provinces of Shandong and Henan.

The ministry said "unfavourable weather conditions" in the regions were expected to last until Jan. 5, and it had asked local governments to take appropriate actions to reduce emissions in a timely fashion.

It said it will dispatch 10 inspection teams to make sure emergency measures are implemented and to crack down on firms engaging in "illegal behaviour".

Large parts of the country's northern regions were hit by hazardous smog in mid-December, which led authorities to order hundreds of factories to close.

Beijing's "red alert" for smog was cancelled on Dec. 22. The next day, the ministry admonished more than 20 firms for failing to comply with emergency rules aimed at cutting emissions.

Hebei, regarded as China's most polluted province, said it would learn lessons from last week's smog and draw up more"focused measures".

The province's environment bureau said on Monday it would make adjustments to its emergency system to improve its performance.

In recent smog outbreaks, individuals and firms had not been given enough time to respond to pollution alerts, and warnings would now be issued at an earlier stage, said Wang Xiaoli, director of the province's Heavy Pollution Early Warning Centre.