Northern China set for a smoggy Christmas
After a fleeting break from days of choking smog, air pollution is set to descend on China’s north again for Christmas.
The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre forecast the air quality index to rise to “unhealthy” levels of between 150 and 200 and possibly to 300 – or “very unhealthy” – on Sunday. The centre said low temperatures and rain would stop the pollutants building up too rapidly and too high.
The air should clear on Monday and remain good or with light pollution for the rest of the month, according to a statement on the centre’s microblog account.
Smog is also forecast for neighbouring Tianjin and Hebei province on Sunday.
The gloomy forecast cast a pall over weekend plans.
One internet user called “Disappearing Beijing native” said: “When will this two fine days and five smoggy days end?”
Zhao Li, a mother of a six-year-old girl, said her plans to do something outdoors had fallen through for a second weekend in a row due to heavy smog. “I need to find somewhere indoors to take her, probably a museum. But my daughter really wants to ride a bike in the park,” Zhao said.
The skies above Beijing cleared on Thursday after the region endured five days of severe smog. The pollution triggered the year’s first red air pollution alert, shutting schools and factories, disrupting flights, and forcing cars off the road.
During the alert, readings of PM2.5 – fine particles that can lodge deep in people’s lungs – in some parts of the capital surpassed 500 micrograms per cubic metre. A World Health Organisation guideline recommends an annual average of 10 micrograms.
But even during the darkest hours of thick smog, dozens of polluters, including steel and paper mills, cement plants and power generators in Hebei, Shanxi and Henan failed to cut emissions after inspections by teams from the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
The ministry said the plants ignored orders to suspend production. They also falsified data given to inspectors and some even increased pollution.
On Tuesday, authorities in Beijing fined 568 trucks for transporting construction waste and 80,000 cars for being on the road in contravention of the temporary limits imposed under the red alert.