China plans emergency measures to control worsening air pollution
Choking smog blamed on pursuit of economic growth
China is planning to step up its enforcement of anti-pollution measures after weeks of foul air in Beijing fuelled public discontent over the environmental and health costs of rapid economic growth.
Among a set of emergency measures to be formalised are the closing of heavily polluting factories and fining drivers whose cars are heavy polluters. The rules would be implemented during periods when pollution is particularly harmful "to protect the health of people in the city", an air pollution bill drafted by the municipal government and released on the Xinhua news agency said.
The hazardous levels of pollution that blanketed Beijing last week were mostly caused by car emissions, burning coal and the particular atmospheric conditions. But critics say the deeper underlying cause is an obsession with boosting the economy, regardless of the environmental costs.
Beijing's lung cancer rates are reported to have increased by 60 per cent in the past 10 years. The Vice-Premier, Li Keqiang, pictured left, who is expected to take over as Premier in March, said last week that tackling pollution would be a long-term process.
Heavy snowfall in Beijing brought some relief yesterday, when the US Embassy's air quality index, measuring PM2.5, or particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres, gave a merely "unhealthy" reading at 197, down from more than 400 the day before.
PM2.5 particles are small enough to go deep into the lungs and can cause lung cancer, bronchitis and asthma. Last week there were readings off the scale – more than 500, up to 755 at some points, and possibly beyond. A level above 300 is considered "hazardous", while the World Health Organisation recommends a daily level of no more than 20.
Data released at the weekend showed that Beijing's permanent population reached 20.69 million at the end of last year, but the swelling number of permanent residents has not been matched by efforts to keep tabs on pollution.
And Beijing is nowhere near the worst – it ranked 75th worst for air quality out of 149 cities in China listed at the weekend, with the worst reading in the northern city of Harbin.
There is a belief that privileged Communist Party members and rising inequality are somehow linked to a disproportionate effect of pollution on the poor. Most residents of Beijing do not have the luxury of air purifiers at home, or iPhone apps to read air quality. This bout of pollution has been marked by unusually open coverage in the newspapers and on state TV, and the Beijing city government has invited residents to comment on the draft rules.
Wang Conghu, a professor of public management at Renmin University, thinks the measures are a positive step. "This shows the government is trying to do something, and it will be an important measure to cut pollution," he said.
A Beijing-based traffic expert, Xu Kangming, told Jinghua Times: "Whether they are actually enforced and whether real action will be taken depends on how the individual departments enforce them."
Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy
Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'
Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Grandmas keep accidentally tagging themselves as Grandmaster Flash on Facebook
Islamic State: Pope is 'being targeted by Isis', Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See warns
Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton nude pictures exhibition cancelled after artist concedes photos were 'stolen property'
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time: 'That was the lowest I'd ever felt'
Richard III: Two years after his body was found scientists discover how he died
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...
£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...
£1034496 - £1516224 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The Job:Randstad ...
£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...