SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The air quality in eastern China continued to improve in the first quarter, but smog worsened in central and western regions, Greenpeace said in a report on Wednesday after analyzing government data for 362 cities.
An analysis of concentrations of tiny airborne pollutants known as PM2.5 highlighted the effectiveness of government policies to clean the air in key population centers along the eastern seaboard that includes areas around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, Greenpeace East Asia said.
But it said air pollution in the central and western areas was poised to worsen as investment in coal-fired power plants in those areas increases, "specifically because their air pollution and emissions regulations are more lax".
China's Ministry of Environmental Protection released a report on Tuesday that highlighted in broad brush strokes some of the trends in air quality over the first quarter.
It analyzed a slightly smaller set of cities, but the findings were generally in line with those of Greenpeace.
The ruling Communist Party has in recent years begun to address the country's environmental problems, focusing much effort on air pollution in three major population centers in the east - the Beijing-Hebei-Tianjin area, the Yangtze River delta, and the Pearl River delta.
Cities in central and western parts of the country dominated the list of urban areas with the worst air, with the top five located in the far western region of Xinjiang, according to the Greenpeace report.
Of the 91 cities that Greenpeace said saw average PM2.5 levels rise during the quarter, 69 were in central and western parts of the country. Their PM2.5 concentration levels increased 20.1 percent, it said.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Ryan Woo)