No quick end in sight for Beijing smog

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, July 2, 2013
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The China Central Television building in Beijing is cloaked in heavy smog on Monday. [Photo / China Daily]

The China Central Television building in Beijing is cloaked in heavy smog on Monday. [Photo / China Daily]

The filthy air clogging the skies over Beijing is not expected to clear anytime soon, according to forecasters.

A strong wind would do the trick, but no cold air movement is expected in the coming week, they say.

Since late June, murky brown air has been blanketing the capital, with the city's air pollution index reaching 244 on Monday afternoon, marking another heavily polluted day, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center.

"With no cold air movement, the stable atmosphere and high humidity level may worsen the haze across Beijing," Sun Jisong, chief weather forecaster at the Beijing Meteorological Bureau, told China Daily on Monday.

He said rain might clean the air for a short period, but the haze will not clear unless a strong wind blows.

Haze usually occurs in winter in Beijing, but as pollutants are increasing in the air, smoggy summers may become more frequent, Sun said.

The early summer haze has led to an increase in people in hospitals complaining of respiratory ailments.

Zhang Shunan, deputy director of the department of traditional Chinese medicine and lung disease at Beijing Hospital, said the number of patients visiting the department has increased by up to 20 percent in the past few days compared with the same time in previous years.

"But summer should be a season when there are fewer people with respiratory symptoms," he said.

When there is heavy pollution, experts suggest that people avoid outdoor activities and even refrain from exercising in gymnasiums.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said excessive emissions of pollutants are partially responsible for the frequent haze in the capital.

Wang Yaqiang, deputy director of the atmospheric composition institute at the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, previously told China Daily that only when pollutants are reduced will the number of smoggy days fall.

Song Guojun, an environmental science professor at Renmin University of China, suggests an odd-and-even license plate rule should be introduced in Beijing to reduce pollution and the number of vehicles on the roads.

Beijing adopted such a rule during the 2008 Olympic Games to ensure clean air and reduce traffic jams. But the rule, which banned half of the cars from the city's roads according to the day of the week, was controversial as it affected car owners' rights. "Automobiles substantially are contributing to the air pollution," Song said.

In the capital, there are about 5 million cars on the roads every day, causing traffic jams and emitting huge amounts of exhaust, contributing 22 percent of PM 2.5 — small particles which enter the bloodstream via the lungs — according to the municipal government.

Beijing issued an emergency response plan for hazardous pollution for the first time last year. This calls for construction sites to limit activity that creates large amounts of dust and for industrial enterprises to reduce emissions during days of hazardous pollution.

The plan also requires the traffic authority to reduce the use of government vehicles on hazy days by 30 percent compared with normal days. Education authorities are told to instruct students to stay indoors on such days.

However, few people are wearing face masks on the capital's streets despite the constant smog.

Bill Milewski, an expatriate from the United States who has lived in Beijing for years, said he is not checking the air quality index as often as before because the pollution is so frequent.

"It made me unhappy to see the figure go beyond the index, so I simply stopped reading it," he said.

But Milewski said he installed air purifiers in his apartment years ago when he moved to the capital from Hong Kong.

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