Beijing on red alert for smog, schools directed to shutdown

Beijing on red alert for smog, schools directed to shutdown

Beijing on red alert for smog, schools directed to shutdown
China's capital today issued the first-ever red alert as the city of over 22 million people faced the worst ever smog, forcing authorities to shut down schools and putting restrictions on factories and traffic.

Beijing has upgraded its alert for air pollution from orange to red, the most serious level, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. This is the first time the capital has issued the red alert, which will last from 7:00 AM Tuesday to 12:00 PM Thursday.

According to the city's emergency management headquarters, during a red alert, kindergartens, primary and high schools are advised to suspend classes, outdoor operations of construction sites are banned and some industrial plants are required to limit or stop production.

The notice, issued after days of heavy smog last week, also places traffic restrictions on certain types of vehicles in the city of 22.5 million people.

Car use will be limited as cars are allowed on the roads on alternating days depending on the odd or even numbers of their license plates. In addition, 30 per cent of government cars will be banned from streets on an odd and even basis, the statement said.

State television CCTV reported that Beijing authorities for the first time are  considering to impose a congestion tax to ease traffic. At present over 30 per cent of the air pollution comes out of automobile emission.

According to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre, heavy air pollution will linger until Thursday. It is expected to disperse Thursday afternoon as a cold front arrives.

The air quality alert of the US Embassy in Beijing showed "very unhealthy" reading of PMI 2.5 (the tiny particles in the air that reduce visibility and cause the air to appear hazy when levels are high) at above 256 which could cause significant health problems for patients with heart and lung diseases and increase in respiratory effects among general population.

Yesterday China's weather observatory issued a yellow alert for smog that will cover the country's northern regions and asked schools to keep the children not let them outdoors to avoid exposure to heavy smog.

China has been emphasising that it is drastically cutting down usage of coal and promoting a sustainable energy mix of solar, wind and nuclear power and green technology.

Ahead of the Paris Climate meet, China's Environment Minister Chen Jining said last month that that his country reached the pollution reduction targets for major pollutants outlined in its 12th five-year plan, six months ahead of schedule.

He however said a substantial improvement of the environment will only be possible if pollution is reduced by a further 30 to 50 per cent. Recent reports also alleged that China is under reporting coal usage to claim drastic cutdown of its usage.

He said China has phased out some 250,000 tonnes of ozone-depleting substances during 2010-2015. This is more than half of the total amount phased out by all developing countries.
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