Worst smog yet this win­ter to cover north

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHENG JINRAN zhengjin­ran@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Bei­jing has is­sued its first air pol­lu­tion red alert of the year, with the most se­vere smog since au­tumn set to start on Fri­day night and last for five days.

An­other 22 north­ern cities have been ad­vised to fol­low the cap­i­tal and is­sue the high­est emer­gency re­sponse, the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion said on Thursday.

The red alert, ef­fec­tive from 8 pm Fri­day, will see tougher re­stric­tions in­tro­duced for pri­vate car own­ers, who will be al­lowed to drive only on al­ter­nate days de­pend­ing on their li­cense plate num­ber, the Bei­jing mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment said.

The move also brings a sus­pen­sion of in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion and, to re­duce dust, work at con­struc­tion sites. Res­i­dents are ad­vised to stay in­doors.

The smog, ex­pected to be the worst since au­tumn in sever­ity, length and size of the area af­fected, is fore­cast to cover Bei­jing and Tian­jin as well as the prov­inces of He­bei, Shanxi, Shan­dong and He­nan from Fri­day un­til Dec 21, ac­cord­ing to Liu Bingjing, head of air qual­ity man­age­ment for the min­istry.

The wors­en­ing air qual­ity is fore­cast to peak and re­main at the most se­vere level over the week­end.

The red alert is the high­est level in the four-tier emer­gen- cy re­sponse sys­tem against air pol­lu­tion, fol­lowed by or­ange, yel­low and blue.

An­other nine cities, in­clud­ing Ji­nan in Shan­dong prov­ince, are ad­vised to is­sue or­ange alerts, Liu said, adding it would be the third time this month city gov­ern­ments had jointly is­sued emer­gency mea­sures in De­cem­ber, in this case cov­er­ing 32 cities.

From Dec 2 to 4, 60 north­ern cities is­sued alerts and con­ducted co­or­di­nated con­trol ef­forts, and dur­ing the bout of smog from Dec 9 to 12, 24 cities joined in the re­gional joint ef­forts, the min­istry said.

“It is sug­gested the af­fected re­gions is­sue the alerts jointly and be­fore smog comes, which has proved ef­fec­tive in re­duc­ing pol­lu­tion,” said Chai Fahe, a se­nior re­searcher at the China Re­search Academy of En­vi­ron­men­tal Sciences.

Dur­ing the smog of Dec 2 to 4, the con­cen­tra­tion of PM2.5 — tiny par­tic­u­late mat­ter that can en­ter the blood­stream — was low­ered by 20 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter on av­er­age in the north­ern re­gion.

The north­ern ar­eas have been hit by smog fre­quently since Oc­to­ber, “mainly be­cause of the un­fa­vor­able weather for the dis­per­sal of pol­lu­tants, large emis­sions from lo­cal pol­lu­tion sources and pol­lu­tants trans­ferred from neigh­bor­ing ar­eas”, said Bai Qi­uy­ong, head of the Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Mon­i­tor­ing Cen­ter.

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