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United response to help as smog on way in Beijing area

Zheng Jinran and Zhang Yu
Updated: Nov 4,2017 10:57 AM     China Daily

The country’s top environmental agency has suggested that 28 cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and neighboring provinces coordinate their efforts, such as issuing orange alerts at the same time, to cope with the coming bouts of severe smog.

While Beijing residents experienced blue skies on Nov 3, severe air pollution was approaching the region and was expected to linger until Nov 8, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

“Air quality in Beijing will get worse starting on Nov 4 and pollution will peak on Nov 6, reaching the most severe level (of the six-tiered air quality system),” Sun Feng, chief forecaster of Beijing Environmental Monitoring Center, said on Nov 3.

The air is expected to improve on Nov 8 as the wind picks up, but it may deteriorate again on Nov 9, he said.

Beijing on Nov 3 issued an orange alert, the second-highest in the four-colored system-red, orange, yellow and blue-to be in effect from Nov 4 to 8, according to the municipal government.

By 4 pm on Nov 3, at least 23 other cities in the region had also issued orange alerts, including Shijiazhuang in Hebei province, Taiyuan in Shanxi and Zhengzhou in Henan.

Under an orange alert, heavy trucks have to stay off the roads and plants in some polluting industries must suspend production.

Joint emergency responses by Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and neighboring provinces are expected to lower the levels and length of periods of pollution, said Liu Yan, who works as a coordinator at the air pollution emergency response bureau in Beijing.

In December 2016, Beijing and neighboring regions jointly issued red alerts, and managed to cut emissions by at least 30 percent, according to an assessment of the environmental ministry.

“Plants that suspend production in Hebei will be mainly in the iron and steel, coking, chemical and construction sectors,” Liu Zengxi, a senior official from the Hebei provincial State-owned Assets Supervision and Management Commission, said on Nov 3.

In addition to the temporary production restrictions of orange alerts, Hebei province, which is hit frequently by smog in winter, has taken extra measures to reduce production and emissions during the heating season from mid-November to mid-March, he said.

It’s forecast that the economic loss in the province from suspensions during the heating season will surpass 11 billion yuan ($1.7 billion), he added.

Xing Shitian, team leader for a construction site in Shijiazhuang, said he will be affected by construction restrictions. “But I support the measures as long as they work in controlling the smog,” he said. “The health of my family is more important.”