Tougher steps taken as smog grips re­gion again

Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei tem­po­rar­ily clear, but pol­lu­tion is fore­cast to re­turn through Fri­day

China Daily (USA) - - TOP NEWS - By ZHENG JINRAN zhengjin­ran@chi­

The Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei re­gion has en­tered its fifth round of heavy smog since the be­gin­ning of Oc­to­ber, drag­ging down air qual­ity and forc­ing govern­ments to take tougher mea­sures.

How­ever, top-level in­spec­tion teams con­tinue to re­port vi­o­la­tions of pol­lu­tion rules by com­pa­nies and weak im­ple­men­ta­tion by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

The smog cleared tem­po­rar­ily on Mon­day but was fore­cast to re­turn and cover large ar­eas of north­ern and cen­tral China on Tues­day night, lasting through Fri­day, the Na­tional Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Cen­ter said on Mon­day.

Bei­jing’s air qual­ity rose to a health­ier level on Mon­day, thanks to winds. Some north­ern cities in neigh­bor­ing He­bei province also saw an eas­ing of air pol­lu­tion, the cen­ter said.

In some parts of the re­gion, in­clud­ing Shi­ji­azhuang, cap­i­tal of He­bei, ex­press­ways were closed tem­po­rar­ily early on Mon­day due to thick fog, which re­duced vis­i­bil­ity to within 40 me­ters. The fog even­tu­ally lifted, but air pol­lu­tion re­mained se­vere.

As of 3 pm, the air qual­ity read­ing in Shi­ji­azhuang had climbed to the most se­vere level in the six-tier alert sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to data from the pro­vin­cial air qual­ity mon­i­tor­ing web­site.

Cities in the cen­tral and south­ern ar­eas of the re­gion, such as Baod­ing and Han­dan, ex­pe­ri­enced “haz­ardous” pol­lu­tion lev­els, hit­ting the sec­ondlevel, and the north­ern part of He­nan, in­clud­ing Zhengzhou, saw air qual­ity hit the most se­vere level, ac­cord­ing to the web­site of the China Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Mon­i­tor­ing Cen­ter.

Since the start of Oc­to­ber, the Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei re­gion has been hit by sev­eral rounds of heavy smog, the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion said.

The re­gion’s 13 cities met the na­tional air qual­ity stan­dard around 64 per­cent of days in Oc­to­ber, a year-onyear drop of 6.8 per­cent. The con­cen­tra­tion of PM2.5— par­tic­u­late mat­ter less than 2.5 mi­crons in di­am­e­ter that is es­pe­cially haz­ardous to hu­man health — in­creased by 13.3 per­cent year-on-year, the min­istry said.

Among the re­gion’s cities, Shi­ji­azhuang has seen the big­gest chal­lenges.

Since Oct 1, it has had the worst air qual­ity, with PM2.5 read­ings 60 per­cent higher than the re­gional av­er­age, the na­tional mon­i­tor­ing cen­ter said on Sun­day. In Oc­to­ber, Shi­ji­azhuang was the worst of the 74 ma­jor cities with air pol­lu­tion.

In re­sponse, the min­istry has sent in­spec­tion teams to Shi­ji­azhuang and other cities to mon­i­tor their ef­forts to re­duce air pol­lu­tion.

The teams have found com­pa­nies in vi­o­la­tion of gov­ern­ment re­stric­tions on the emis­sion of pol­lu­tants as well as weak im­ple­men­ta­tion by au­thor­i­ties. The burn­ing of waste and corn straw out­doors is se­vere, the in­spec­tion teams found.

He­bei has set strict con­trols on pol­lu­tant emis­sions, such as sus­pend­ing pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries like ce­ment-mak­ing plants dur­ing the heat­ing sea­son, from Nov 15 to March 15, while iron and steel plants and coal-fired power plants will be shut down if they can­not guar­an­tee sta­ble emis­sions.

Other emer­gency mea­sures taken to cope with se­vere smog will be­come reg­u­lar ef­forts. Shi­ji­azhuang, for ex­am­ple, will be­gin ve­hi­cle use re­stric­tions dur­ing the heat­ing sea­son, al­low­ing about one-fifth of pri­vate ve­hi­cles to op­er­ate each day.

“The de­tailed re­stric­tions and im­ple­men­ta­tion plan will be re­leased soon based on cities’ con­di­tions,” said an of­fi­cial from the pro­vin­cial En­vi­ron­men­tal De­part­ment who re­quested anonymity.

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