Avoid contact with snow in Beijing: officials

Avoid contact with snow in Beijing: officials
Chinese Met depatment today warned people in capital Beijing to avoid coming in contact with snow which officials said is "dirty" as it has absorbed pollutants which had enveloped the city since the final day of the last year. The Beijing weather forecast bureau said that snow followed by blasts of cold wind will clean up the air this weekend.

Snow fell in many parts of Beijing today morning and is expected to last into the night, bringing a bit of relief from the smog that has persisted since the last day of 2016. The city witnessed slight snow but the smog continued to envelope the city. Meteorologist Guo Jianxing, however, warned the public not to get too close to snow.

"Because the snow absorbs pollutants, it is dirty," Guo said. "People should carry umbrellas if they walk outside and quickly brush off any snow that falls on their skin," he was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency. According to the city's air quality surveillance centre, with the exception of northwestern Beijing, the capital remained "seriously polluted" as of 1 pm today.

The density of PM 2.5 - tiny pollutant - was 178 micrograms per cubic meter. The weather bureau said gusts of wind, a major force to dispel the smog, will start to arrive tomorrow from the north. It said Beijing's heavy air pollution will be eased and finally cleared from north to south. At worst, only very light smog will linger in a small portion of the city, it added.

The smog has become north China's biggest environmental issue in recent years, particularly in winter, when coal-fired heating boilers rev up and the wind weakens. Despite drops in pollution indicators, smog still frequently occurs, the report said. Chen Jining, minister of environmental protection, told media here yesterday that his ministry is evaluating emergency plans of 20 cities including Beijing in dealing with heavy air pollution amid criticism that officials shun putting out high alerts to avoid taking action against erring factories.

Chen said that inspections had found some cities failing to take effective measures following alerts, or their measures were impracticable. Though pollution in Beijing exceeded hazardous levels for the past several days, the city has not issued the red alert, the maximum warning which would warrant enforcement of odd and even number car system, closure of schools and factories emitting pollution as construction sites. Instead the city officials stuck to orange alert below the red which drew criticism from netizens.

Critics say besides use of coal for heating during winter, the pollution levels shot up in the last few weeks as factories ramped up their production ahead of the Chinese New Year later this month during which they had to shut down for prolonged period. China has a four-tier colour-coded warning system for severe weather, with red being the most serious, followed by orange, yellow and blue.
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