China appoints 5,500 inspectors to find smog cheaters in polluted north

China appoints 5,500 inspectors to find smog cheaters in polluted north
WATCH ABOVE: China says it will send 5,500 inspectors to investigate the sources of air pollution

As Beijing wallows in the thick of China’s second-highest pollution rating, officials are launching a new offensive in the war on smog.

READ MORE: China nabs 720 people in pollution crackdown

The environment ministry says it plans to send more than 5,500 people on a year-long investigation to the country’s heavily polluted north, tracking down major offenders in 28 cities and making sure they tow the line in a region notorious for turning a blind eye to the rules.

WATCH: Time-lapse video shows wall of smog engulf Beijing

Northern China, including the capital Beijing, is a frontline in the government’s battle against pollution. But despite improvements last year, the air got a lot worse in the first two months of 2017.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: ‘Smog free’ tourism is booming in Beijing as residents deal with record pollution levels

15 other provinces and regions are now also being targeted, in a new round of checks that include the city of Shanghai in the east and Hainan island in the south.

The first round of inspections kicked off last year in big coal-producing regions like Inner Mongolia, where some air quality progress has been made.

But it’s not just the air that’s a problem. Chinese rivers have also become increasingly toxic, as pollution continues to leech from the soil into the water supply.