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Beijing factories forced to shut down, limit output over air pollution

17 December 2016 15:33

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Beijing’s city government has ordered 1,200 factories around the Chinese capital to either shut down or reduce production in a bid to avert another “airpocalypse,” condition where air pollution reaches unprecedented levels.

In a statement released on Saturday, the local government said an oil refinery run by the state oil giant Sinopec and a Cofco food plant, were among 500 companies required to cut output.

Some 700 other firms were also ordered to suspend activities altogether.

Environmental authorities also issued a red alert that started on Friday night and will run until Wednesday amid warnings of a new round of haze shrouding different cities in northern Chinese.

The red alert, which is the highest level of a four-tier warning system, orders curbs on traffic and construction work as well as advisories for schools, hospitals and businesses in the mega city.

It is issued when the air quality index (AQI) is forecast to break 200 for over four days in succession, exceed 300 for more than two days or exceed 500 for at least 24 hours.

A woman wears a mask on a street in Beijing on December 16, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

 

Dong Liansai, a Beijing-based climate and energy campaigner for environmental group Greenpeace, described the declaration of the red alert as a positive step.

“But this is only a short-term measure. If you want to solve the problem of air pollution then you really need to have a long-term policy,” Dong said, adding, “And given that coal is the No 1 source we really recommend a nationwide cap on coal consumption.”

On Saturday, Beijing’s air stayed relatively smog-free, with its AQI level standing at 169 at 0300 GMT, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center.

“The country is taking measures, the city government is taking measures, they’re restricting cars to odd and even (number plate) numbers, and now there’s no real pollution, it’s really good,” said Beijing resident Hou Liqiang.

China is the world’s second-largest economy and the biggest carbon emitter. It has been grappling with environmental issues caused decades of financial growth.

 

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