Red alert: Beijing partially bans traffic on heavy pollution days

Visitors take a walk during a polluted day at Tiananmen Square in Beijing (Reuters / Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Visitors take a walk during a polluted day at Tiananmen Square in Beijing (Reuters / Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Beijing has introduced new traffic rules to combat the massive smog that has cloaked the Chinese capital for years. When city authorities issue a ‘red alert’, a number of cars will be banned on the roads and heavy vehicles completely banished.

Four types of pollution
alerts, blue, yellow, orange and red, will be issued on
heavy pollution’ days, according to Beijing’s
Environmental Protection Bureau. The term will be applied if the
Air Quality Index tops 200.

Orange and red alerts are to be announced 24 hours before these
heavily polluted days, Yao Hui, deputy head of the bureau, told
Xinhua news agency.

Vehicles bearing odd- and even-numbered license plates will be
allowed on the streets on alternating days during red alerts.
Also 30 percent of government cars will be banished from the city
traffic irrespective of their plate numbers.

All factories will be shut down during orange alerts. Heavy
vehicles, such as construction trucks, will also be completely
banned during orange and red alerts. The same system is applied
to battle another big city problem – traffic jams.

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“With the new plan, strong pollution measures could be
implemented more often and public health – particularly that of
children – can be protected more effectively,”
Ma Jun,
director of the Institute of Public and Environmental based in
Beijing, told the Global Times.

“The only concern is whether the government will be
determined enough to issue red alerts considering the
difficulties in implementing the controversial car ban,”

READ MORE: Air in 90% of China’s cities still not safe for
breathing, despite ‘war on pollution’

Beijing is the world’s most-polluted city. A map of air
quality in the capital and other Chinese cities shows that
numerous locations are smog-bound. In some areas the air quality
index already tops 200.

On Tuesday,, a website that monitors 60 cities,
indicated Beijing AQI (Air quality index) level of 176. It means
that there is “critical level of pollution and harmful
impacts on the general public”
in the city.

READ MORE: China to shut down last Beijing coal power plant in

China has been suffering a pollution crisis for decades which has
left big cities shrouded in constant smog and half the
groundwater contaminated. Pollution from the coal industry alone
killed 670,000 people in China in 2012, according to last year’s
study by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The level of air pollution in China was more than double the
national standard in 2014 with the indicators of environmental
pollution over the limit in 90 percent of 161 Chinese cities. The
level of small particles that pose a danger to human health,
averaged 85.9 micrograms per cubic meter in 2014 in Beijing
compared with the national standard of 35.

Only eight of China’s 74 large cities have managed to meet
official air safety standards in 2014, according to the
Environmental Protection Ministry.

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