Smog grounds Shang­hai flights

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

SHANG­HAI: Hun­dreds of flights were de­layed or can­celled yes­ter­day in China’s com­mer­cial hub of Shang­hai as record lev­els of air pol­lu­tion shrouded the city in smog, prompt­ing au­thor­i­ties to is­sue the high­est level of health warn­ing.

This is es­pe­cially em­bar­rass­ing at a time when China seeks to build Shang­hai into a global busi­ness hub on par with the likes of Lon­don, New York and Hong Kong by 2020.

On Fri­day, Shang­hai is­sued its sever­est health warn­ing as the city’s pol­lu­tion in­dex shot up to 31 times the lev­els rec­om­mended glob­ally.

In the first such ad­vice since a new health warn­ing sys­tem was launched in April, au­thor­i­ties urged res­i­dents to stay in­doors and asked fac­to­ries to ei­ther cut or halt pro­duc­tion.

“I don’t think it’s fit for peo­ple to live in this kind of en­vi­ron­ment,” said Shang­hai res­i­dent Fan Jian­jun, 34, who wore a face mask.

“But I have no choice. I still need to work.”

Air qual­ity in cities is of in­creas­ing con­cern to China’s lead­ers, anx­ious to douse po­ten­tial un­rest as more af­flu­ent cit­i­zens turn against a growth- at- all- costs eco­nomic model that has pol­luted much of the air, wa­ter and soil.

The gov­ern­ment has an­nounced many plans to fight pol­lu­tion over the years but has made lit­tle progress.

Most of the flights leav­ing Shang­hai’s air­port have been de­layed. Pudong was the world’s third busiest cargo air­port in 2011, data from the Air­ports Coun­cil In­ter­na­tional shows.

Air pol­lu­tion forced schools to shut or sus­pend out­door ac­tiv­i­ties in at least two cities in east­ern China on Thurs­day. Some schools in Shang­hai can­celled out­door ac­tiv­i­ties.

The un­usu­ally nox­ious haze was caused by sev­eral fac­tors, in­clud­ing in­dus­trial pol­lu­tion and auto emis­sions trapped by cold, wind­less weather, said Xu Bin, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor at Shang­hai’s Tongji Univer­sity. – Reuters

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