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  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 12:00am

Beijing air pollution

The Chinese capital has for many years suffered from serious air pollution. Primary sources of pollutants include exhaust emission from Beijing's more than five million motor vehicles, coal burning in neighbouring regions, dust storms from the north and local construction dust. A particularly severe smog engulfed the city for weeks in early 2013, elevating public awareness to unprecedented levels and prompting the government to roll out emergency measures. 


Pollution remains at hazardous levels in Beijing

As pollution remains at hazardous levels, officials close some factories and order many government cars off the roads

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 4:22am

Beijing warned the city's 20 million people to prepare for at least another day of smog and officials closed some factories and ordered government cars off the road as pollution remained at hazardous levels.

Visibility was reduced to a few hundred metres in downtown Beijing and an online merchant reported overwhelming interest in masks yesterday. A US embassy pollution monitor showed that air quality reached hazardous levels for the 19th in 25 days.

Premier Wen Jiabao said the nation should promote energy-saving measures, reduce emissions and advance ecological progress in light of the pollution, Xinhua reported. The smog has remained dense after hitting record levels on January 12 and Beijing officials have proposed new rules aimed at improving air quality.

"I haven't seen the smog stay so long like this for years," said a 40-year-old woman after buying two air purifiers for more than 13,000 yuan (HK$16,000) each in downtown Beijing. "This seems to be the only solution for us. You used to just open the windows to get fresh air at home, but now you can't do that since it's even dirtier outside."

The concentration of PM2.5, the fine air particulates that pose the greatest human health risk, was 302 micrograms per cubic metre at 10am and 301 at 5pm, according to the US embassy monitoring station. The level at the monitoring station closest to Tiananmen Square was 189 and had averaged 300 in the previous 24 hours, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre. The World Health Organisation recommends 24-hour exposure to PM2.5 of no higher than 25.

Yesterday's air quality was given the worst rating on the city's six-level scale, which includes a recommendation to avoid outdoor activities, according to the city monitoring centre's website.

Beijing will temporarily halt production at 103 companies that produce high emissions, while government agencies and state-owned companies were ordered to cut vehicle use by 30 per cent today, the Beijing environment bureau said on its website. The city's air quality was expected to improve from tonight, it said. Twenty-three flights were cancelled at Beijing Capital International Airport as of 10.50am yesterday out of 1,625 scheduled flights, the airport said on its website. "Low-visibility weather will continue to affect the airport" it said.

Exposure to PM2.5 contributed to 8,572 premature deaths in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xian last year, and led to economic losses of US$1.08 billion, according to estimates by Greenpeace and Peking University's School of Public Health.

China, which the World Bank estimates has 16 of the 20 most- polluted cities globally, is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

"Beijing has a goal of building itself into a world city," the China Daily newspaper said in an editorial yesterday. "What is a world city? It should definitely not be a city that has most of its winter days shrouded in smog."


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China’s car culture is incongruent with its large land block culture which are found even in the middle of city with scary few streets. When land block size couldn’t be reduced to create more public roads, serious road congestions will remain if without a great reduction of cars. In fact a further expansion in subway services in Beijing is of limited help to clear road congestion and ultimately related air pollution.
When comes to attributing air pollution to cars it is as important as to count cars as roads servicing them. Beijing has very few roads to compare for the many cars to use. Furthermore, with large land blocks, street intersections are few which reduce opportunities for alternate routes. All of these factors contribute to blocked traffics which inevitably with idling cars pumping exhaust fumes into air while waiting for clearance. Here we have few statistics in comparing the street grid of Beijing with Manhattan. Take a land block in central Beijing bounded by 建国门外大街, 东三环中路, 光华路, 西大望路covering an area of 810,000 square meter which later针织路 was put into service (another road was added since my research). There are 5 roads verses 21 covering equal land area in Manhattan. Consequently, the area in Beijing has mere 6 intersections verses 54 in Manhattan to facilitate traffic movement. Even that, the city mayor imposed a limit for inbound cars into Manhattan when traffic congestions became severe. The traffic lights in Manhattan are synchronized so to work efficiently for cars and pedestrians moving in large batches (no flyovers or overpasses required like in Beijing).


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