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Hebei looks overseas for smog control

Hebei province will import 200 foreign experts to assist with 50 projects on air pollution control over the next four years, and create an industrial zone in which companies can develop solutions.

"We will attract projects and experts mainly from the United States, Britain, Germany and other developed countries," said Jing Qingyu, deputy director of the provincial human resources and social security department, at the department's annual conference on talent in Shijiazhuang earlier this month.

In the two designated zones dedicated for environmental protection work in 2014, companies will find ideal conditions for developing various projects, Jing said.

The province saw an overabundance of smog in 2013: 236 days with an air quality index worse than the national standard for good air.

In addition to a series of measures aimed at cutting polluting industries, the province plans to use foreign experts to lead a campaign against air pollution with better financial support than in the past.

Hebei plans to spend 20 million yuan ($6.2 million) for imported talent in 2014, Jing said.

To curb worsening air quality, all 11 major cities of the province will introduce programs to attract experts for environmental projects.

Zhangjiakou, Beijing's northern neighbor, has already taken a step forward. The city, generally upwind of the capital, created a zone for environmental protection industries and research centers in September.

The headquarters of the zone, a facility of 5,000 square meters, will open on April 2 to provide services for candidate companies and experts. Another 20,000 sq meters will be ready in five months, according to Song Xinwei, director of the new zone.

"We will restrict companies and institutions in the zone to those associated with high technology and technology that serves the environment," he said.

"For the imported foreign experts, each will get a signing bonus of a maximum 300,000 yuan," he said, adding that the city will be generous to motivate quality research.

If an expert's work proves valuable, he or she will get another reward of up to 5 million yuan, he said.

"We will do the most we can to guarantee clean air for the capital as well as support the bid for the Winter Olympics in 2022," he added.

Experts in Hebei have suggested that in seeking foreigners the province should focus on technical talent.

"We already possess the main technology for air pollution control, which means only experts with cutting-edge knowledge are needed," said Guo Bin, a professor at Hebei University of Science and Technology who also leads environmental protection research in Hebei.

"We need advanced models on forecasting and early warning of air pollution based on numerical calculations," he said. The current system, which is based on statistics and accumulated experience, is only at the primary stage.


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