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Environmental Group Launches App to Expose Polluting Chinese Companies

Jun 09, 2014 11:49 AM EDT

A Chinese environmental group launched a smartphone app Monday that tracks and exposes polluting companies, acting on the country's inclination to make such data more available and welcoming public monitoring of breaches in environmental safety.

The app provides hourly updates on factory emissions reported to local authorities and highlights violators of emissions limits in red on a color-coded map. It also gives government air pollution data for areas throughout the country, The Associated Press reported.

About 15,000 factories nationwide are required by the Environment Ministry to report their air emissions in real time to local environmental officials. Since early 2014, public availability of some data is mandatory.

This is a giant step for China compared to three years ago when companies hid their data on PM2.5 - tiny particles in the air that are considered a good gauge of air quality. Environmentalists say public supervision is the key to prevent officials from ignoring companies' disregard for their environmental impact.

The new app, produced by the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), allows consumers to quickly search air quality data for 190 cities and check and share real-time monitoring data for surrounding polluters.

On Monday, for instance, the app's data showed as many as 370 large industrial companies were producing emissions exceeding limits.

Gu Beibei, senior project manager at IPE, notes that the new app is very user-friendly.

Now, "if the air quality is bad you can switch (to the factory map) and see who is in your neighborhood," she said. "It will be a very effective tool for people to voice out their concerns."

This app comes into focus after China announced its plan to cap greenhouse gas emissions, following the United States' pledge to slash power plant-produced carbon emissions by 30 percent. China remains one of the world's leading producers of harmful greenhouse gases.

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