Local governments in China will no longer be able to restrict or ban vehicles from plying on the road to keep its air clean, according to a new amendment introduced on Saturday to the central law that governs anti-pollution efforts.
Governments in major cities like Beijing – notorious for high levels of air pollution -- have used the system of registration plate numbers -- odd and even -- to restrict some vehicles on plying on certain days.
Currently for example, half of Beijing’s lakhs of vehicles have been ordered off the roads to clean up the air in the run-up to the World War II victory parade next week on September 3.
Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China’s rubber stamp-Parliament, passed the bill to amend the Air Pollution Control Law (APCL) through a vote at the close of the bi-monthly legislative session.
It did not say when the amendment will come into effect.
The decision to reverse this part of the anti-pollution law will come as a surprise to many as the Chinese government is right in the middle of its fight against large-scale air pollution, triggered mostly by factory, vehicular and construction-related pollution.
Legislators argued that the provision was violating the owners’ right to property by restricting them from plying their vehicles.
“Another prominent revision adapted to the APCL on Saturday is the removal of clauses allowing local governments to restrict or ban vehicles to fight air pollution,” the state media said in a report.
A senior official, Hao Ruyu, a vice-chairperson with China’s Parliament, the National People’s Congress, supported the revision. “People pay to buy cars and pay taxes for the cars. Banning people from driving on certain days equates to deprivation of citizens' rights to property,” Hao was quoted as saying in the report.
The report added: “In a bid to control smog, Chinese cities have begun to restrict the use of vehicles. In Beijing, vehicles are restricted one out of five weekdays based upon the last numbers of their license plates.”
Ironically, that provision was in effect on Saturday, when the revision was added to the APCL.
Of course, a number of other amendments were added to strengthen the fight against pollution like maintaining standards on the kind of petrol used and restricting the use of bad quality coal.
About 150 remote sensors will be set up in Beijing to monitor vehicular emission, under the amended law. With the new amendment, the sensors are likely to have a far larger number of vehicles to monitor.