China punishes officials for tampering with smog monitor

SHANGHAI - China has punished officials in the provinces of Jiangxi and Henan for tampering with pollution monitoring equipment in order to reduce smog readings, the environment ministry said in a notice on Sunday.

China has been waging a "war on pollution" since 2014 in a bid to reverse the environmental and political damage done by more than three decades of untrammeled economic growth, but enforcement has been a constant problem.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said officials in the cities of Xinyu in Jiangxi and Xinyang in Henan, sought to reduce emissions readings by spraying water on their air quality sensors.

Both cities are major producers of polluting and energy-intensive nonferrous metals like aluminium and copper.

The two local governments said the officials responsible were dismissed or subjected to "administrative" punishments.

"Regardless of whether they deny deliberately tampering and whether or not it has an obvious impact on emissions data, spraying water on air quality monitoring sampling points ... disrupts the normal operations of air quality monitoring," the ministry said on Sunday.

The MEP has tried to establish a real-time nationwide emissions monitoring system to help fight against pollution and ensure its rules are being enforced throughout the country.