Bad smog ahead: Bei­jing tells stu­dents to stay in­doors

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Au­thor­i­ties in Bei­jing warned Wed­nes­day that heavy pol­lu­tion will per­sist this week, urg­ing the sus­pen­sion of out­door school ac­tiv­i­ties and con­struc­tion projects.

The warn­ing comes in the form of an or­ange alert, the sec­ond high­est in a four-tier sys­tem. The alert sig­ni­fies there will be three con­sec­u­tive days of smog start­ing Thurs­day at par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous lev­els on the Chi­nese cap­i­tal’s air qual­ity in­dex. A red alert is is­sued if pol­lu­tion is fore­cast to per­sist for more than three days.

Kinder­gartens and pri­mary and mid­dle schools were ad­vised to can­cel out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. There was no word on such an ad­vi­sory for Bei­jing’s high schools, which fo­cus mainly on in­door test prepa­ra­tion.

Con­struc­tion sites that dot the ever-ex­pand­ing city were tar­geted by au­thor­i­ties for the ex­haust, dust and other pol­lu­tion they add to the al­ready toxic mix in the air.

Launched three years ago amid ris­ing pub­lic con­cern, the warn­ing sys­tem is one way au­thor­i­ties are at­tempt­ing to clean up China’s dirty air af­ter decades of break­neck eco­nomic growth that led to the con­struc­tion of hun­dreds of coal-fired power plants and soar­ing car own­er­ship.

Au­thor­i­ties say they’re mak­ing progress. En­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cials in Bei­jing said Mon­day that a key in­di­ca­tor of poor air qual­ity — the den­sity of the par­tic­u­late mat­ter PM2.5 — de­creased in the first 10 months year-on-year.

Also Mon­day, the en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paign group Green­peace East Asia re­ported that lev­els of the heavy met­als ar­senic, cad­mium and lead in the PM2.5 in Bei­jing had fallen rapidly since 2013. It said the de­cline was di­rectly linked to the clo­sure of coal-fired power plants around the city.

The Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal En­vi­ron­men­tal Mon­i­tor­ing Cen­ter ac­knowl­edged that the city’s air was likely to worsen as the coal-pow­ered win­ter heat­ing sys­tem kicks in across north­ern China.

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