Tracking pollution in China? There's an app for that!

A Chinese environmental group launched a smartphone app on Monday that tracks and shames polluting factories, highlighting how the country is making environmental data more available and is welcoming public monitoring of companies that pollute.
The app gives, where available, hourly updates on emissions reported by factories to local authorities and shows the plants as color-coded points on a map, with violators of emissions limits in red. It also gives government air pollution data for areas throughout the country.
The Environment Ministry requires 15,000 factories nationwide to report their air emissions in real time to local environmental officials. Since the beginning of this year, the government has required that the data be made public and provincial governments have started posting it on websites, though it has not been centrally collected in one place until now.
The availability of such data is a far cry from three years ago, when Chinese authorities kept secret their data on PM2.5 -- tiny particles in the air that are considered a good gauge of air quality. Now, PM2.5 data is a key part of published air quality indexes.
The new app is produced by the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, which said Monday that it allows consumers to quickly search air quality data for 190 cities and check and share real-time monitoring data for surrounding polluters.
The group said the real-time monitoring showed as many as 370 large industrial companies were producing excessive emissions on Monday.
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