ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Alert issued as smog shrouds Beijing
Publication Date : 21-02-2014
Beijing issued a yellow alert for smog on Thursday for the first time since October when the city drew up an emergency plan featuring a four-colour alert system.
A red alert signals the highest level of pollution, ahead of orange, yellow and blue alerts.
The city's environmental protection bureau forecast that the smog will last for three days and suggested the public use public transportation instead of private cars to help ease pollution caused by exhaust emissions.
It also suggested that the elderly, especially those with respiratory and lung problems, reduce outdoor activities and asked students at kindergartens and schools to refrain or reduce outdoor physical exercise.
Work at construction sites in the capital should also be limited, as required by the yellow alert, the bureau said.
Beijing is heavily polluted in winter, with coal burned during the heating season worsening air quality.
The city has adopted strict measures to deal with the pollution. They include shutting down polluting enterprises, mostly in the suburbs, and keeping polluting vehicles off the roads.
Bureau spokesman Fang Li told China Daily earlier he was confident the city will see reduced pollution this year.
Data from the Beijing Environmental Monitoring Center suggest that the city's air quality this winter has improved slightly compared with last year.
In January, air quality in all 74 cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta areas improved compared with the same month last year, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said.
The levels of all major pollutants, except ozone, fell during the period.
PM 2.5, or fine particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 microns, fell by 12.2 per cent, while nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide fell by about 10 per cent.
Many heavily polluted cities are in Hebei province, including Xingtai, Shijiazhuang, Baoding, Handan, Hengshui and Tangshan.
Some provincial capitals, including Jinan, Chengdu, Xi'an and Wuhan, also experienced heavy pollution.
Air quality was best in Lhasa in the Tibet autonomous region, Zhoushan in Zhejiang province, Haikou in Hainan province, and Kunming in Yunnan province.
China first started monitoring PM2.5 in January 2013. The particles are considered to be more hazardous as they can penetrate more deeply into the lungs.
The ministry said it will continue to update monthly air quality of cities and their rankings.
Under the emergency plan introduced in Beijing in October, warnings will be issued when the air quality index is predicted to be above 300 for three consecutive days, indicating severe pollution.
If a red alert is issued, half of the city's private cars and 80 percent of public vehicles will be banned from the roads.