China’s National Meteorological Center (NMC) issued an orange alert for smog on Monday morning, the fifth straight day such an alert has been announced.
The worsening air pollution forced Chinese capital Beijing to roll out its four-tiered smog alert system for the first time since October.
Besides the Chinese capital of Beijing, other regions involved are Tianjin Municipality, and the provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Henan, Sha’anxi, and Shanxi.
“Based on the current forecast, the cold front will still be weak over the next few days until Feb. 27, so the smoggy weather in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province will persist. Of course, there will be fluctuations in its intensity, but certainly the big picture is that the situation will continue, and even deteriorate, in some of the regions,” said Ma Xuekuan, chief forecaster with the NMC.
Beijing’s officials urged people to stay indoors, and to use public transport when they go out.
“We have to check the weather situation before we go out, and then decide our daily life. The weather has a great impact on our lives,” said a man.
“Now I rarely do exercise outside. I used to play lots of sports outside, like playing basketball. Now I usually do indoor sports,” said another man.
On the morning of Feb. 21, readings from monitor stations throughout the Chinese capital were all above 300, except for one. That is more than ten times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization.
Last September, the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection issued an action plan to tackle pollution in cities around the country.
“The transparency, or the disclosure of the data of this PM 2.5 have of course the snowballing effect. As you can see, you know, the government has come up with unprecedented action,” said Ma Jun, the director of Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.
But some people remain skeptical about the plan’s effectiveness. Further more, Experts said the measures for an orange alert are too weak to bring any real change. Without the right measures and accountability, any new action plan has little chance of clearing the air.
Hebei Province has torn down 19 iron and steel production facilities. The measures are expected to reduce consumption of 4.06 million tons of coal, and emissions of 9,700 tons of sulfur dioxide and 7,000 tons of smoke and dust annually. The city of Tianjin on Sunday enacted a third-level emergency plan to deal with air pollution. Major polluting industrial enterprises have been required to limit their production activities and low-sulfur bituminous coals are recommended to all the polluting companies.
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