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Red alert issued in Beijing over air pollution

15 December 2016 16:12

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A red alert for air pollution has been issued in the Chinese capital of Beijing for the first time in 2016, as stifling smog is increasingly shrouding the metropolitan city and its surrounding areas in northeastern China.

The red alert, the highest in Beijing’s four-tiered, color-coded warning system, will begin at 08:00 p.m. local time on Friday and bans half of the capital’s private cars from moving along the streets with an odd-even number plate system in force.

According to a notice posted on the official website of Beijing’s municipal government on Monday, construction sites have also been ordered to close and further restrictions have been imposed on the production of some industrial plants and enterprises, as the hazardous pollution is expected to linger on the capital for the next five days.

“Enterprises and public institutions can adjust office time or ask employees to telecommute. Kindergartens, primary and middle schools can work on flexible teaching schedules or close,” the notice added.

According to an emergency response program adopted by Beijing in 2013 to curb air pollution, a red alert is issued when severe smog is estimated to last over 72 hours. Beijing put out its first ever red alert on December last year, when it was engulfed by a thick blanket of choking and toxic smog.

In recent years, China has seen extremely high levels of air pollution, particularly in the northeast, the industrial heartland of the country. Scientific studies attribute 1.4 million premature deaths per year — or almost 4,000 per day — in China to pollution.

Coal-fired power plants, vehicle emissions, construction, and factories are the main factors to blame for most of the pollution. The Chinese government is mulling over the reduction of hazardous emissions from coal-fired power plants by 50 percent over the next five years.

Over 60 percent of electricity in the country depends on coal as Beijing is still in the process of shifting to nuclear, solar and wind power for energy.

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