Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Beijing sends teams to polluted areas as thick smog worsens

AIR ALERT:Twelve teams of inspectors are headed to construction sites and factories to monitor how local officials are dealing with the dangerous smog

Reuters and Bloomberg, BEIJING

Beijing’s air pollution reached eight times WHO-recommended levels yesterday, as smog in the city persisted for a fourth day, prompting China to send teams of investigators to the worst-hit parts of the country.

The concentration of PM2.5 — fine particulates that pose the greatest risk to human health — was 198 micrograms per cubic meter near Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital at 11am yesterday, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its Web site.

The WHO recommends levels no higher than 25 micrograms per cubic meter over 24 hours.

Twelve teams of inspectors headed to the cities of Beijing and nearby Tianjin, as well as Hebei Province, to see how authorities are responding to the air pollution, the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection said yesterday.

The inspectors will visit construction sites and factories producing steel, glass, cement and coal products, the ministry said, with those found violating production standards to be publicly identified.

Chinese authorities have issued innumerable orders and policies to try and clean up the environment, investing in projects to fight pollution and empowering courts to mete out stiff penalties, but enforcement has been patchy at the local level, where authorities often rely on taxes paid by polluting industries.

In Beijing, which has been shrouded in smoky, white smog for a week, officials raised the air pollution alert system to “orange” for the first time ever on Friday after drawing public fire for their initial ineffective response.

“Orange” is the second-highest level in a four-tier system.

Smog will persist until this morning in Beijing and Tianjin, as well as in parts of Hebei, Shandong, Henan, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday, citing China’s meteorological agency.

The agency forecast the smog to ease on Thursday when a cold front is expected to bring winds.

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