Beijing lifts red alert for smog

Beijing, Dec 10: Chinese capital Beijing on Thursday lifted its first ever red alert for smog as the hazardous haze which engulfed the sprawling city dissipated bringing much relief to the over 22 million residents.

The first red alert, the highest emergency response level against smog in Beijing, started at 7 am Tuesday, and was lifted as air quality improved by noon.

In this combination of photos from the first week of December 2015, men and women wear masks to protect from air pollutants in Beijing. Many in Beijing are becoming accustomed to wearing masks during winter since episodes of nauseating smog lasting several days has become increasingly common.

The red alert lasted for 53 hours and came as heavy smog flooded the city for the second time in as many weeks, state-run China Daily reported.

As of 12 o'clock at noon, the reading of PM2.5 – particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 microns that is hazardous to human health – was lowered to 26 microgram per cubic metre in the six downtown districts, falling at the best air quality level.

However, at 6 am, the PM2.5 reading was 216 microgram per cubic metre at the hazardous level, according to the municipal environmental monitoring station, the report said.

The north wind has dispersed the accumulated air pollutants, bringing the blue sky back to the capital, the municipal weather authority said.

An overnight cold wind reported to have blown the polluted smog out of the city's skies. Under the red alert, kindergartens, primary and high schools were closed.

The car use has been restricted with odd and even number plates and outdoor operations of construction sites halted. A number of industrial plants were ordered to limit or stop production.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection Emergency said that the measures cut pollutant emissions in Beijing by 30 per cent. The municipal government issued the thank-you letter to the residents, expressing their appreciation on residents' cooperation in the face of tough restrictions.

Li Shixiang, deputy mayor of Beijing, said the efforts to curb the air pollution turned out effective and the government will build more monitoring stations and mobile monitoring vehicles, to provide more information to facilitate the forecast on smog.

Without the measures, the density of PM 2.5, tiny and particularly hazardous airborne particles, would have risen by 10 per cent, environmentalists with Beijing University of Technology said.

The density of PM 2.5 sulfates, commonly caused by coal-burning, was much higher on Tuesday while the air held far less PM 2.5 nitrates, mostly emitted by vehicles, Chai Fahe, deputy head of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences told state-run Xinhua news agency.

This indicated that the traffic restrictions were effective but more work needs to be done to reduce emissions from coal burning, Chai said.


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