Red alert offers hope of newly blue skies

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-9 22:18:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

As Beijing's skyline was blurred and its giant landmark buildings vanished into heavy smog again on Monday, local authorities finally issued its first red alert, shutting down factories and pulling cars off the road. What does the red alert mean to China's, especially the capital's efforts to fight air pollution? Three Chinese newspapers shared their opinions.

Measures have to be carried out in full

Beijing authorities issued the first ever red alert for pollution on Monday. The highest alert will last for three days until Thursday noon.

According to the city's emergency plan, red alert means the heavy air pollution is anticipated to last more than three consecutive days. Once triggered, the alert will inflict heavy costs. Vehicles will have to follow strict odd-even license plate policy. 80 percent of government vehicles will have to stay off the roads. Subways will add extra shifts. Primary and middle schools will suspend classes. Outdoor construction sites will be shut down temporarily. All these measures are a multifaceted test to the government, including execution, responsiveness to inquiries and the feasibility of contingencies.

A lot of measures from banning heavy vehicles from inner city roads to shutting down or curtailing factory production have been implemented. Making sure contingencies can be carried out to the letter requires strict scrutiny and an accountability system.

In late November, Beijing was shrouded by heavy smog for several days, and the authorities issued two orange alerts. However, according to an investigation by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, some factories ignored bans and orders, and continued production and emissions. We should reinforce scrutiny, lower the bar for punishment and crack down on these violations. Only in this way can we ensure the emission reduction measures effectively implemented.

The red alert is also a test of the coordination of actions taken by different authorities in different cities and provinces. In order to address Beijing's air pollution, both the municipal and district governments should make joint efforts to strengthen scrutiny and law enforcement. Meanwhile, we cannot separate Beijing from its neighborhoods in dealing with air pollution. The battle against smog demands integrated actions by cities and provinces in the entire region including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei Province and Shanxi Province. This time, in face of the heavy smog, the Ministry of Environmental Protection demanded joint measures by Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei to keep an eye on the pollution and make due arrangements if there is any change.

The red alert tells us that dealing with smog is a protracted war, and we are not in an advantageous position. After the alert is launched, what we can do so far is only to slow down the incremental emissions instead of cutting down on the scale. Only when local governments are willing to cooperate with each other and abandon regional protectionism, can we restore the blue sky.

Economic Daily

Public warnings keep everyone aware

Air pollution alerts have been triggered many times since Beijing introduced an emergency procedure in 2013. However, the authorities have been showing prudence in pressing the red button.

It is costly to launch a red alert. Under the highest warning, schools will halt classes, vehicles will have to follow a strict odd-even license plate policy, 80 percent of government vehicles will have to stay off the roads, and subways will have to do extra shifts.

All these measures will greatly impact society. It is necessary that the authorities are cautious about launching the red alert.

It doesn't mean the red alert should exist only in name. When the air pollution level matches the description of the red alert, it should be triggered immediately.

This time, the Beijing authorities triggered the alert based on a full understanding of the air pollution. The response is a responsible action to protect citizens' physical and mental health.

The arrival of smog is usually an emergency, which could pose immediate threat to the people. In this critical moment, the public's right to health and information should be prioritized. It is worth the government investing more in public services even at some economic costs.

As one of the first batch of cities that have established rapid-response procedures for air pollution, Beijing has shown its initiative by triggering a red alert at the imminence of a new round of smog.

Beijing announced the red alert 13 hours before the smog engulfed the city. It left enough time for the public to prepare, and the severity of pollution has also been scaled down as a lot of measures were conducted earlier.

Issuing an appropriate alert and letting the public know what is really happening can relieve the public from panic, blindness and possible harm due to pollution.

The red alert might cause some inconveniences, but the people will understand and are happy to do their due part as responsible citizens to help address the air pollution.

The red alert could serve as a rallying cry for society to get together and fight pollution. Government, enterprises and individuals should realize the difficulty and urgency of addressing smog, and actively engage in real actions.

Fighting smog is a long battle, and actions speak louder than words.

The Beijing News

Society needs to work to create clean cities

Blue skies are a rare sight in Beijing. Heavy smog raided the city again on Monday, prompting the first ever red alert. People had been discussing when the red button would first be pressed since the alert system was introduced in 2013. However, when the red siren is on, most people do not feel much difference. After all, the smog is out there, and they live in it.

Experts in environmental monitoring tell us that the adjustment of alerts depends on numerical weather prediction instead of people's feelings. The condition for red alert is that the air pollution is set to be "severe" for three consecutive days. According to the announcement of the Beijing government, the heavy smog would last at least three days, so the red alert was triggered, 13 hours before the smog, based on the requirement of the emergency procedure adopted by the Beijing government.

However, emergency procedures are just a contingency to cope with heavy pollution. It can only scale down the growing emissions so that human factors won't make things worse. Contingencies are necessary if heavy air pollution poses threats to people's health. If the smog does not get worse, it means these contingencies work.

The red alert will not have an effect if law enforcement agencies do not do their job well. The halt of factories and construction sites should be scrutinized, and the temporary suspension of classes and limit of traffic need well-considered backup plans. More importantly, we must keep in mind that we cannot regard emergencies as normality. The alert must be a resounding warning to city rulers and each individual that we need continuous efforts to eradicate air pollution.

The adoption of emergency procedure has also offered a chance for the authorities to make more detailed plans to analyze the causes of the pollution and launch countermeasures respectively.

The red alert should inform everyone that amid smog, we shouldn't just make sarcastic jokes against the government on the Internet. We must take real actions to contribute to addressing the smog. We can drive less, impose more supervision om the government, keep an eye on the implementation of the emergency plans, and report violations to law enforcement. Only in that way can we avoid regular red alerts.

Beijing Times

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