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China is deploying drones in its fight against pollution and smog that frequently engulfs large swathes of the country including Beijing, a senior official said on Saturday at a discussion during the ongoing session of the country’s top advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Deputy minister of environmental protection, Zhai Qing, said drones were being used to inspect heavily polluted areas for illicit emissions.
Unmanned aircraft were flown over Beijing and neighbouring Shanxi and Hebei provinces to inspect pollution intensity.
“The aircraft can cover 70 square kilometers of land in their daily two-hour flights and have already helped the ministry resolve over 200 environment-linked cases,” Zhai was quoted by state media as having told a panel discussion with scientists during a CPPCC session.
The drones will be equipped with infrared devices to allow them to operate during the night, Zhai said, adding that authorities were considering conducting similar drone inspections in more of its polluted areas.
A recent spell of smog covered more than 15 percent of the country and hung over Beijing for more than a week, triggering a barrage of criticism and questions from citizens whether authorities were actually keen to clear the air permanently.
The dangerous levels of pollution proved particularly sensitive to the Communist Party of China (CPC) –led government as it was gearing up for the annual sessions of the CPPCC and the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s Parliament.
“Fighting pollution has long been on top of the government's agenda, but a spell of smog that enveloped some 15 percent of the country's territory a week ahead of the annual parliamentary session added urgency to the matter. Beijing at one point recorded "beyond index" measurements of particulate matter,” official news agency, Xinhua reported.
The ministry of environmental protection said last month that China has sent 12 inspection teams to regions worst hit by air pollution to check major polluting industries, such as steel, coal, chemicals, glass, cement and construction.
Premier Li Keqiang made a telling remark in his work report presented to the NPC earlier this week. “Smog is affecting larger parts of China and environmental pollution has become a major problem, which is nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development,” Li said.