Beijing: Authorities were forced to shut down schools and colleges and put restrictions on factories and traffic today as China’s capital issued the first-ever red alert owing to what has been termed as the worst ever smog faced by the city of over 22 million people.
It has been reported that the alert for air pollution has been upgraded from orange to red which is the most serious level. The red alert will last from 7 am Tuesday to 12 pm on Thursday.
According to the city’s emergency management headquarters, during a red alert, kindergartens, primary and high schools are advised to suspend classes, outdoor operations of construction sites are banned and some industrial plants are required to limit or stop production. The notice, issued after days of heavy smog last week, also places traffic restrictions on certain types of vehicles in the city of 22.5 million people.
It has also been informed that car use will be limited allowing them on the roads on alternating days depending on odd or even numbers of their license plates. An official statement also said that 30 per cent of government cars will be banned from streets on an odd and even basis
State television CCTV reported that Beijing authorities for the first time are considering to impose a congestion tax to ease traffic. At present over 30 per cent of the air pollution comes out of automobile emission.
According to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre, heavy air pollution will linger until Thursday. It is expected to disperse Thursday afternoon as a cold front arrives.
The air quality alert of the US Embassy in Beijing showed “very unhealthy” reading of PMI 2.5 (the tiny particles in the air that reduce visibility and cause the air to appear hazy when levels are high) at above 256 which could cause significant health problems for patients with heart and lung diseases and increase in respiratory effects among general population.
Yesterday China’s weather observatory issued a yellow alert for smog that will cover the country’s northern regions and asked schools to keep the children not let them outdoors to avoid exposure to heavy smog.
China has been emphasising that it is drastically cutting down usage of coal and promoting a sustainable energy mix of solar, wind and nuclear power and green technology.
Ahead of the Paris Climate meet, China’s Environment Minister Chen Jining said last month that that his country reached the pollution reduction targets for major pollutants outlined in its 12th five-year plan, six months ahead of schedule.
He however said a substantial improvement of the environment will only be possible if pollution is reduced by a further 30 to 50 per cent. Recent reports also alleged that China is under reporting coal usage to claim drastic cutdown of its usage.
He said China has phased out some 250,000 tonnes of ozone-depleting substances during 2010-2015. This is more than half of the total amount phased out by all developing countries.