Beijing issues red alert as the country grapples with severe air pollution

World Today

China Daily Life Women wearing masks for protection against pollution walk on a street in Beijing, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. Authorities in Beijing issued an air pollution first red alert, the highest of a four-tier system on Thursday as heavy smog is forecast to hit the capital city from Friday onwards, triggering vehicle restrictions and forcing schools and construction projects to close. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Beijing’s city government has issued a red alert for severely high levels of air pollution in the Chinese capital, running for five days from Friday evening, the environmental protection bureau said on its official Twitter-like Weibo account.

The city issued its first ever red alert on smog in December last year, after adopting a color-graded warning system in a crackdown on environmental degradation left by decades of breakneck economic growth.

Smog expected this week will stem from air pollution accumulated in Beijing and its environs, such as the nearby city of Tianjin and the northern provinces of Hebei, Shandong and Henan, the bureau said, citing environment monitoring forecasts.

New environmental protection measures took effect on Thursday, among them unifying Beijing’s system of alerts with those of Tianjin and Hebei, and a ban aimed at keeping older, polluting cars off Beijing’s roads.

In addition, drivers of newer cars face an ‘odd-even’ usage limit determined by the final digit of their license-plates.

Schools freed from an earlier requirement to close en masse are being given the authority to ‘flexibly’ cancel classes, on the basis of their needs and those of students’ parents.

Companies may also consider early departures for employees, or provisions to work from home.

After temporary school closures and construction halts brought by last year’s smog alert, the city government has tweaked its system. In February it linked the threshold for red alerts to a higher average of the daily air quality index (AQI).

Story by Reuters.