• Thu
  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 12:03pm

Shanghai grinds to a halt as smog nears top of air pollution scale

Flights scrapped, roads closed and construction stopped as pollution hits east and south; no relief expected until Sunday at the earliest

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 11:57am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 December, 2013, 1:56pm

Shanghai experienced one of its worst episodes of air pollution on Friday, with the air quality index reaching the "severe" level, the worst on a six-tier national rating system.

The municipality's landmark buildings disappeared from the skyline in the morning as the official air quality index exceeded 400. By 8pm, the index had hit 484, almost reaching the maximum of 500, according to the website of the Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Centre.

In the Pudong district, home to multinational businesses and financial services companies, the level of PM2.5 - fine particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter which pose the biggest health risk - exceeded 600 micrograms per cubic metre by 1pm. In Putuo district, the level exceeded 700 mcg per cubic metre. The World Health Organisation safe limit is 25 mcg per cubic metre.

Overall air quality was considerably worse than the municipal government had anticipated on Thursday when the bad pollution began. It had forecast the index would be at 240 to 310 on Friday afternoon.

With such a high concentration of air pollutants, the authorities warned even healthy people would show some serious health symptoms and be more vulnerable to disease.

Children, the elderly and the sick were advised to remain at home, while others were told to reduce their outdoor activities as much as possible.

Some of the worst polluting factories were told to limit or stop production. Building and road construction work was halted and nearly a third of government cars were pulled out of service.

Most inbound flights were cancelled and more than 50 flights diverted at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. With some roads closed, traffic was also severely affected.

A cold front arrived in the Yangtze River Delta region on Thursday but was too weak to blow air pollutants out to sea. The wind only brought more pollutants into the region and extended the smog to the south.

Much of eastern and southern China was now shrouded in pollution, the National Meteorological Centre said.

The worst hit areas are Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui. Visibility in Yunnan, Fujian, Jiangxi and Hunan was cut to 500 metres.

Beijing had blue skies over the last couple of days but also woke up to smoggy weather on Friday morning, with the PM2.5 level exceeding 240 by 4pm in the southern part of the city, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The situation will not improve until Sunday, according to official forecasts. The pollutants will disperse early next week as a strong cold front reaches the Delta and drives air pollutants out towards ocean waters.

China's neighbours, such as South Korea and Japan, are likely to complain about the effect of pollution on them. Environment officials from the Seoul city government will arrive in Beijing next Wednesday. They are expected to urge China to begin sharing air pollution information with them.


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This article is now closed to comments

China needs a functioning and non-corrupt Environmental Protection effort -- as most countries the rest the world have. Life on earth and the skies and waters are precious. wholesale destruction of the environment is already now having awful consequences. All people must determine to protect as best we can the natural world. Without it, we have no chance ourselves. best wishes
Some people think Shanghai "probably" doesn't have coal-fired power stations. This is not true. In fact they do have them, so at least some of Shanghai's problems come from within Shanghai. I've been to one of the plants in Shanghai. My company has equipment at that plant. The equipment was bought 13 years ago. It is a very bare bones system for measuring air into the boiler. It needs updating and should really be more than the bare minimum, yet after 3 years ago our financially modest proposal languishes with no action. In some ways it's not surprising nothing has been done. The statistics for NOx pollution reported by the factory, which my upgrade would most directly effect, are actually very good. In fact they are so good they are 100% better than the best coal-fired power station in the U.S. is achieving for NOx emissions: all this with much worse fuel. So I guess everything is just fine in China and pollution is all a figment of our imaginations. Personally, I am moving to help other countries, since from what I have learned from Chinese power plants they don't really have any problems and can do everything by themselves. As they say you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.
even if the government implemented some sort of environmental protection scheme today would be like telling a container ship at full speed to come "full stop" in 20 seconds. it just ain't gonna happen, it's a runaway train and it's getting worse by the day. "record breaking pollution levels" are just going to keep happening. Planet Earth has been doing great the past 4.5 billion years. Introduce the human factor and look where we are now and look how quickly we got here ! There were virtually no engines/factories etc. in just the last 100 years! what a disgrace we are. We are killing this planet.
1.3 billion people need to have economic activity to survive. So, it is what it is. Why try to play the blame game. It all started and still starts for these people in the bedroom or ?. Until this problem can be solved if ever their will be pollution of many kinds.
Has the penny finally dropped?! I doubt...
who cares
they will soon stage another fake space mission and keep the masses proud!
or maybe pick a fight with japan over a meaningless rock in the middle of the ocean
I was in Shanghai Wed-Fri; just got back around midnight. The air was the worse I have experienced and I travel to China frequently.
Ok guys. People, businessess and Governments the world over all want MORE so let's not get nationalistic about this.
John Adams
I feel very sorry for the people of Shanghai ( where my company has an office) and in the rest of SE China where the smog is.
But I hope that this finally brings home to the CCCP the fact that economic growth without due attention to pollution control is simply a fast way to commit national suicide.
Our company deals in both air and water pollution monitoring. PM2.5 smog is at least pollution people can see. But there are lethal levels of invisible air pollution in many major Chinese cities, which is far more dangerous than PM 2.5 smog.
The situation for water pollution is even worse.
The general population of China has no idea at all what they are breathing and drinking.
So this is what you get with a growth at all costs economic strategy and a political system without checks or balances to ensure the country does dot go off a cliff. Complacency and money worship are also to blame, while the opportunity to make things better is more about political reform than anything else now.




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