China battles to clear smog before economic summit

Beijing has been enveloped by thick fog for the past few days. Picture: Getty
Beijing has been enveloped by thick fog for the past few days. Picture: Getty
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CHINA’S capital is expected to face more heavy smog from tomorrow as it battles to try to guarantee air quality ahead of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit attracting world leaders including US president Barack Obama, starting on Saturday, forecasters said.

Beijing, enveloped by thick smog over the past few days, has announced various long-term schemes over recent years to end the problem once and for all but none has worked.

Authorities also said that from today they would issue daily air quality forecasts for the coming week, and release hourly pollution readings.

The China National Environmental Monitoring Centre will also hold a daily video conference with units in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi and Shandong at 3pm to discuss and forecast air quality, the Legal Evening News reported.

The results will be flashed on outdoor electronic display screens and released through the internet and mobile applications.

According to forecasts from the China National Environmental Monitoring Centre published by the Ministry of Environmental Protection yesterday, unfavourable weather conditions mean that central and southern parts of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region will face “severe pollution” ahead of APEC.

Beijing and nearby regions will impose their most stringent pollution controls since the 2008 Summer Olympics as they bid to maintain air quality during the summit, which will be attended by a number of world leaders.

Workers will be sent home in the early part of next month, traffic will be restricted and hundreds of polluting industrial plants will be closed within a 200km (125 mile) radius of the capital.

Beijing has already dispatched teams of “chengguan” – city security officials – to stop illegal activities and it will also impose more stringent restrictions if pollution readings rise beyond tolerable levels over the 12-day period.

Zhang Qingwei, the governor of neighbouring industrial province of Hebei, said that curbing pollution during the meeting was vital for China’s “national image”, while vice-premier Zhang Gaoli described it as the “priority of priorities”.

Smog readings soared after the 1 to 8 October National Day holiday, when industrial plants in northern China returned to full capacity, and pressures are likely to intensify in early November, with coal consumption about to jump as urban heating systems are switched on for the winter.

On Friday, Mr Gaoli ordered a temporary shutdown of factories to ensure better air quality during the APEC meeting.

Mr Zhang also said vehicle controls must be strictly enforced and residents should be encouraged to take public transportation during the meeting,

In an effort to ease traffic congestion and curb pollution, Beijing has already announced that public workers in the capital will be given six days off during the APEC meeting.