BEIJING (Reuters) - China is drawing up plans to extend curbs on smog over the 2018-2020 period, an environment ministry official said on Wednesday, after a five-year crackdown on pollution helped it meet its air quality targets last month.
Liu Youbin, a spokesman at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said officials were now working on "a three-year battle plan in the war to protect blue skies", involving tighter regulations for major industrial regions like Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas.
He didn't say when details would be released.
China's previous action plan against smog, covering 2013-2017, forced the smog-prone Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region to take action to reduce concentrations of hazardous particles known as PM2.5 by more than 25 percent.
Despite near-record PM2.5 readings in January and February last year, northern China managed to meet 2013-2017 air quality targets by the end of last year, largely thanks to a campaign that forced polluting factories in 28 cities to reduce output over the winter.
That campaign is set to end in March. But amid concerns that enterprises and local governments could lower their guard in the wake of reaching targets, China has also been trying to "normalize compliance" and put firms under more permanent scrutiny and pressure.
Beijing has already sought to impose new "special emissions restrictions" on enterprises in major industrial sectors in northern China.
Liu told reporters that China would continue to tackle "scattered" coal-burning sources - a major source of uncontrolled pollution in provinces like Hebei - and would also "steadily" promote clean energy heating.
Hebei was forced to suspend its plans to convert large numbers of coal-fired heating boilers to natural gas after winter supply shortages left thousands of households without heat over the winter.
(Reporting by Muyu Xu and David Stanway; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)