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The smog of the last red alert cleared dramatically on 10 December. Beijing authorities have advised residents to avoid outdoor activity and for schools to stop classes

Beijing issues second smog red alert

WT24 Desk

Beijing has issued a second pollution red alert, little more than a week after the first ever such warning, BBC reports.  The Chinese capital will see hazardous smog from Saturday until Tuesday, the official meteorological service said.  Nationwide, a vast area from Xian in central China to Harbin in the north-east would also be badly hit, the National Meteorological Centre said.

Beijing authorities have advised residents to avoid outdoor activity and for schools to stop classes.  The red alert – the highest of a four-level alert system instituted two years years ago – also triggers restrictions on vehicle use, factories and construction work.  The government has promised to take action to address often dangerous levels of pollution.

Long-term exposure to high levels of PM2.5 – the dangerous particulate matter in smog – has been linked to lung damage and respiratory illnesses.  The World Health Organization considers PM2.5 readings of 25 micrograms per cubic metre as the maximum safe level.  The smog which hit Beijing on 8 December peaked just below 300. Residents are encouraged to stay indoors if levels exceed that level.

Long-term exposure to high levels of PM2.5 – the dangerous particulate matter in smog – has been linked to lung damage and respiratory illnesses.  The World Health Organization considers PM2.5 readings of 25 micrograms per cubic metre as the maximum safe level.  The smog which hit Beijing on 8 December peaked just below 300. Residents are encouraged to stay indoors if levels exceed that level.

The news of the new red alert was greeted with exasperation and worry among Chinese citizens.  Beijing resident Cheng Xianke expressed concern for the health of the elderly and children. He told Reuters: “For us who commute to work it’s not so bad but still I’m very concerned about the pollution. I think the government needs to put more effort into solving this.”

Another resident, Fan Xiaoting, told the news agency that the alert would affect school teaching timetables: “We are paying close attention as to whether stopping the classes will have further implications.”  Online, many netizens questioned the government’s efforts to combat pollution. “I really don’t know what the government is doing? It can predict the smog but not take the appropriate measures beforehand, rather it’s letting the smog harm citizens,” said Weibo user Beijingpuer.

Coal-powered industries and heating systems – in heavy use during the cold Beijing winter – are major contributors to the smog. It is made worse by weather conditions and the city’s geography – it is bordered to the south and east by heavily polluting industrial areas, and to the north and west by mountains that trap the dirty air over the city.

China still depends on coal for more than 60% of its power, despite big investments in renewable energy sources. Earlier this month China was part of the landmark Paris climate change agreement, that set a course for China, and the world, to move away from fossil fuels in the long term.

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