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.
Beijingers respond to planned BBQ bans with a scoff and a cough
Official suggestions for ordinary citizens to help fight smog are dismissed as ludicrous by public
Minnie Chan and Li Jing
Government proposals to reduce air pollution, in part by banning barbecues and encouraging people to eat less fried food, have sparked an online backlash, with environmental activists and the general public calling the suggestions "empty talk".
"Does anyone believe the smog will be easily controlled after a barbecue ban?" one internet user commended. "We are not fools like some leaders."
"What is [the Ministry of Environmental Protection] going to consider next?" another user asked. "Will they ban cooking, too? My family still uses a wood-burning stove."
Other online comments suggested that the ministry was targeting average citizens because it could not come up with pollution-reduction measures that were acceptable to the industries most responsible for pollution.
The draft proposals, submitted by the ministry earlier this month for public feedback, highlight outdoor barbecues, cooking oil fumes and incense burning among the key pollutants that should be addressed to help reduce suffocating smog, as skies across large portions of the country have remained hazy for much of last month.
If the measures are enacted, barbecues will be banned in densely populated cities, while the onus will fall on restaurants and households to decrease kitchen fumes by serving different meals and improving the way they are prepared. Lighting fireworks, incense and even candles at temples during traditional festivals will be frowned upon.
"Everyone in our community has a responsibility to make an effort in the environmental protection campaign, as we [the people] are not only the beneficiaries of environmental protection, but also the pollution makers," an official from the ministry was quoted by Xinhua as saying, adding that authorities hoped the proposals would sway wealthy citizens to reduce waste and curb ostentatious lifestyles.
Beijing-based author and environmental protection activist Dai Qing doubted whether the ministry was taking the war on smog seriously.
"If they are going to do something, they should consult non-governmental organisations and ask them to take part in the war," she said, adding that she hasn't seen them take any actions to ban key pollutants.
The ministry's draft guidelines also re-emphasised policies to cap the nation's overall coal consumption, a major source of fine-particle air pollution. That could include phasing out of coal-burning in large urban areas, according to the guidelines. Iron and steel plants, construction sites and industrial furnaces are listed as key polluters.