China’s central government has been criticized for laying out contradicting accounts about what has caused the acute air pollution that has smothered northern China on Monday and triggered a red-alert in Beijing on Tuesday.
The red alert is the first time Beijing reached the highest level since the monitoring system was launched in 2013. The capital city announced a red alert for Wednesday and Thursday as well and has introduced a series of temporary measures for the following two days to lessen the amount of pollutants in the air, including car-use control.
The government is also shutting down schools to protect the health of children. Citizens are advised to wear mask and cut outdoor activities and construction has also been put to a halt.
The Tuesday alert was issued 12 hours ahead of most severe smog in Beijing. The safety measures can’t eliminate smog, but an only contain the harm, local authorities said.
According to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center, the heavy smog will remain until Thursday. It is expected to disperse Thursday afternoon as a cold front arrives.
Beijing has so far this year suffered two bouts of heavy smog. One Beijing local environmental official has been questioned for not being responsive enough to issue the red-alert during the first incident of air pollution which many say was similar to the current smog level.
Government officials said the smog in Beijing from late November to December 1 did not lasting long enough to trigger the highest alert level.
Other governmental departments have also been under criticism for offering contradicting accounts on what caused the smog.
An editorial by China’s state news provider Xinhua suggested that the explanations given so far are not so much of an effort to account for what is happening, as they are attempts to “exonerate” the department from being associated with the sectors that could have caused such pollution and are under its purview.
Officials from China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MHURD) have blamed Beijing’s smog on vehicle carbon emissions, while the Ministry of Environmental Protection has said the major causes are coal-burning central heating systems, which MHURD oversees.
Accounts from China’s national meteorological agency have also failed to square with what Beijing’s local office had found in establishing the source of the polluting substances.
“Absence of authentic information, together with the conflicting accounts will only raise more concerns among the public and damage the government’s credentials”, Xinhua said.
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Data: WHO. All figures based on annual mean concentration of particulate matter of less than 10 microns of diameter (PM10) [ug/m3] and of less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) in cities.
Story by CCTV News