Cities react to outrage over air pollution

By Yan Shuang and Yin Yeping Source:Global Times Published: 2013-1-15 0:58:01

Public outrage over the choking smog that has blanketed a large part of China for more than 10 days has prompted many cities to shut down factories, ban the use of officials' cars and attempt artificial precipitation.

Beijing's environmental authority has ordered a temporary halt in the operations of factories owned by 58 companies, including chemical companies and car manufacturer Hyundai. They have also been asked to cut down on pollution, officials said in a media briefing on Monday.

Some 30 percent of the capital's official vehicles will be banned from the roads on heavily polluted days to cut down on emissions, the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau announced.

"Traffic authorities will be monitoring these banned vehicles via their database and surveillance cameras," Fang Li, deputy head of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, told the press.

The ban started on Saturday, when the city's PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameters) Air Quality Index (AQI) readings exceeded 700, far beyond the upper limit of 500.

The US consulate in Shanghai defines PM2.5 levels of 200 to 300 as "very unhealthy," stating that young children, the elderly and those with lung conditions should stay indoors.

Fang said that the carbon emissions from traffic and industrial factories, the local climate conditions, and the impact of pollution from Tianjin and Hebei Province are three major causes of the sudden deterioration in Beijing's air quality.

The smog has led to record-high air pollution readings, an increasing number of respiratory disease patient admissions and disrupted traffic across the country, including areas of Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Anhui, Jiangsu and Sichuan provinces.

According to Xinhua, a traffic accident on the Shanghai-Kunming expressway Sunday, which killed one and injured nine, was related to the heavy smog. In addition, Dezhou, in Shandong Province, experienced a 30 percent higher rate of traffic accidents over the weekend.

Amid public demands for more rapid government action on pollution control, several cities have released plans since the weekend. Many however, have yet to take any action.

In some cities, such as Beijing and Shijiazhuang, some schools have cancelled outdoor activities due to the heavy pollution, and the government of Zhengzhou has started tougher inspections of construction sites and coal power plants to reduce emissions and dust.

Environmental and meteorological authorities in Nanjing, where the air pollution has been severe for nine days, have been trying to stimulate artificial rainfall to ease the pollution.

Nanjing's environmental officials also proposed a pollution-control plan to the municipal government, suggesting the activation of temporary traffic restrictions during heavily polluted weather, according to the Yangtse Evening Post.

The smog in most places will last until January 16, the National Meteorological Center said.

Pan Xiaochuan, a professor of public heath with Peking University, told the Global Times plans to deal with extreme pollution should have been established before the situation occurred so people could prepare for the worst.

Currently, environmental protection laws are still not well enforced, while governments in different cities should enhance cooperation on pollution monitoring and control, Pan said, "or else China could have an outbreak of pollution-related social unrest and protests over heath issues."


Posted in: Society, Green

blog comments powered by Disqus