Alert will inspire colleges and mills to close and force-out millions of vehicles off roads after smog reached 40 hours safe level in some areas
Beijing has issued its first pollution red alert as acrid smog enveloped the Chinese capital for the second day this month.
The alert will begin at 7am on Tuesday and should see millions of vehicles forced off the roads, factories and construction sites shut down and schools and nurseries advised to close.
It is history this is a precedent set, told Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public an Environmental Affair in Beijing. This is extremely important to stop children from being exposed to such a high level of pollution.
Chinese authorities faced fierce criticism last week when they failed to issue a red alerting even as Beijings residents choked on smog levels that in some areas rose to 40 hours those considered safe by the World Health Organisation.
Greenpeace complained that the governments insufficient alerting system compounded the effects of Beijings latest airpocalypse, in which reads of the hazardous airborne particle PM2. 5 exceeded 900 micrograms per cubic metre in some parts of the city.
Mondays emergency announcement appeared in part to be a reaction to those criticisms. Ma Jun said it would have been a very tough decision for Chinas leaders to declare the red alert in a city of about 23 million inhabitants.
It is going to involve some very challenging actions like stopping half of the cars. In a city with more than five million automobiles you can imagine that is going to be a big challenge, he told. It is not about the political or financial costs, first and foremost it is about the great difficulty in trying to organise such an emergency response.
But this will definitely help protect peoples health. With the red alerting, primary schools, middle schools and kindergartens will be[ advised] to stop having class. This will be very helpful in preventing extra exposure of the most vulnerable group of people to the air pollution hazards.
Chinese state media said the latest bout of pollution would linger over Beijing until Thursday, when rainfall is expected to clear away the toxic smog. Coal-fired power plants are the major culprit at this point, said Xinhua, Chinas official news agency.
Last year the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, vowed to declare war on pollution, but despite such pledges smog continues to blight cities right across the country. Scientists blame air pollution for about 4,000 deaths a day.
Ma Jun said Beijings first red alerting underlined how serious the smog problem remained. It merely shows that air pollution is still a very big challenge to the city of Beijing and that the government has paid greater attention to this issue, he said.
The crisis is even more severe in the regions surrounding Beijing, where hundreds of millions of tons of coal are still being burned per year even as the capital tries to slash its use of the fossil fuel.
Ma Jun said government action in those places was also needed in order to solve Beijings smog problem. Beijing actually isnt even in the top 10 polluting cities in the region[ any more ]. There are others which are significantly more polluting, he said.
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