China pollution

Heavy smog back to haunt Beijing two days after acting mayor Cai Qi vows air pollution crackdown

Monday morning’s air quality index exceeds ‘unhealthy’ mark after reprieve of only one week as Cai Qi promises ambitious plans to tackle problem

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 3:44pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 11:29pm

Beijing was shrouded in smog again on Monday after a respite lasting just one week.

The air quality index stayed above 150 during the morning, indicating an “unhealthy” level of air pollution.

Smog was at “hazardous” levels in Hebei and Shanxi, two heavily industrialised provinces next to Beijing.

The pollution in the capital was expected to continue to remain high on Tuesday and not disperse fully until a strong cold front ­arrived on Thursday, Beijing’s meteorological bureau warned.

Political rising star and ally of China’s President Xi Jinping steps into spotlight

The smog comes just days after the city’s acting mayor set the capital’s most ambitious target to cut pollution. In his work report to municipal legislators, Cai Qi said the goal was to cut concentrations of PM2.5 – the fine particles most hazardous to human health – by 18 per cent this year. Last year, PM2.5 levels in Beijing fell 9.9 per cent, according to the city’s environmental protection bureau.

But the concentrations are still well above World Health Organisation recommendations and many residents are dismissive of the “improvements”.

During an eight-day spell of smog at the start of the month, many people expressed their anger on social media, criticising the government for not doing enough to tackle the problem despite the city being nearly three years into its “war on pollution”.

In response to the growing public anger, Cai said last week that he sympathised with the concerns and felt “deeply uneasy” about the “inconvenience” the smog had caused them.

Beijing needs to declare war on smog and learn from other countries’ efforts

Cai also acknowledged the lax supervision and weak law enforcement by the government and vowed to establish a police force to crack down on environmental hazards, including barbecues, rubbish burn-offs, biomass incineration and road dust.

The city government also said last week it would cut the number of retailers selling fireworks during the Lunar New Year by nearly 30 per cent. The sale of fireworks will be suspended in the case of a red or orange alert, the two highest levels in the four-tier system.

Beijing sets up ‘environmental police’ squad to tackle smog

Beijing banned fireworks during similar pollution alerts over the holiday last year and an employee at the city’s fireworks management office said the same rules were expected to apply this year.

Henan was mulling a province-wide fireworks ban regardless of conditions but backtracked, reported on Monday.