China to extend winter anti-smog measures for another year

China anti-smog

China will extend winter anti-smog measures such as production cuts and traffic restrictions for a third successive winter. These initiatives are part of a pollution battle plan for 2019 published on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) also vowed to speed up the elimination of small coal-fired heating boilers in major regions. It will also step up the elimination of outdated and excessive production capacity in polluting sectors such as steel, coal, and coal-fired power.

China’s crusade against pollution

China is in the sixth year of a “war on pollution”. This crusade is aimed at reversing the damage done by more than three decades of breakneck economic growth. In view of this, it has taken action to eliminate outdated vehicles and production technology, cut industrial emissions, and ease its dependence on coal.

However, only six of 39 smog-prone northern Chinese cities have managed to cut concentrations of hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 during the latest winter anti-smog campaign. This campaign began last October. In fact, average PM2.5 concentrations actually rose 13 percent over the period, according to Reuters analysis.

That will mean the cities will have to make further cuts this year. The ministry’s new plan said cities that failed to meet air quality standards this winter will have to cut PM2.5 by at least 2 percent in 2019.

Liu Bingjiang, a senior MEE official, said on Tuesday that while the rebound was partly caused by weather anomalies, some local governments believed they deserved “a rest after years of hardship” to meet the anti-smog measures. He added that those governments would face punishment.

Two recent alerts

On Saturday, Beijing issued an orange alert due to dense air pollution as a round of smog wrapped the Chinese capital during the weekend, local authorities said.

After that day, the country has taken a series of emergency measures, including suspending several outdoors construction operations. It also restricted the circulation of pollutant vehicles and interrupted or restricted operations at some manufacturing companies.

Similarly, on February 21, Beijing and various northern and eastern Chinese provinces also started the day with red and orange alerts – the highest ones – due to the presence of dense smog. The phenomenon extended throughout the weekend.

Authorities indicated that the deterioration of air quality was caused by the fireworks thrown during the Lantern Festival and start of operations at many factories.

Alert system

The Chinese alert system has four levels, each coded with a color. Red is the most serious one, followed by orange, yellow, and blue. The orange alert suggests that the air quality index will exceed 200 micrograms per cubic meter for three consecutive days.

This index measures the density of six pollutants, including microparticles PM2.5 and PM10, two key indicators of air pollution.

The region of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei is at the heart of China’s northern plains, which commonly presents air pollution, especially the type called winter smog, as a result of high concentrations of industrial and vehicle emissions, limited air circulation, and coal burning.

For more information, check Energía16

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