SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Several cities in northern China have not implemented effective smog control measures and have failed to crack down hard enough on polluting firms, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing the results of inspections by the environment ministry.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) dispatched eight inspection teams to smog-prone northern Chinese cities earlier this week, and found that some were not doing enough to force polluters to toe the line, Xinhua said.
It named Qianan in Hebei province, saying the city's emergency emission cutting measures were "unreasonable" and not strict enough on local enterprises. The ministry has ordered environmental officials in Hebei to conduct further investigations.
The MEP has been using the recent outbreaks of smog in northern China to test its rapid response systems ahead of the winter, when predominantly coal-fired urban heating systems are switched on and emissions surge.
It warned on Wednesday that Beijing and surrounding regions needed to prepare for what could be a particularly hazardous winter, with "unfavorable" weather conditions set to aggravate seasonal smog build-ups.
Beijing and Hebei have already set up alert systems that limit traffic, suspend construction activities and force firms to cut production during heavy smog.
But the ministry dispatched inspection teams to Beijing and Hebei during a bout of severe air pollution in October and found that many enterprises had exceeded emission limits and failed to follow the regulations.
Enforcement has long been regarded as the weak link in China's efforts to curb pollution, with monitoring still inadequate and fraud widespread.
Hebei, also China's biggest steelmaking province, said this week in a new action plan that it would ensure that high-emission industries like thermal power, steel, coking coal, cement and glassmaking would all be plugged into a real-time online monitoring system by the end of this year.
It also promised to create "no-coal" zones as part of its efforts to cut smog, with Baoding - China's smoggiest city in 2015 - set to ban the use of coal for any purpose apart from power generation by November 2017.
The province aims to cut the 2015 level of hazardous breathable particles known as PM2.5 by 13 percent by the end of next year, the local environmental bureau said.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Michael Perry)