A red alert, issued when severe smog is expected to last more than 72 hours, is the highest of Beijing’s four-tiered, colour-coded warning system.
Many construction sites closed on Tuesday as levels of PM2.5, harmful microscopic particles that penetrate deep into the lungs, reached above 300 micrograms per cubic metre.
The World Health Organisation’s recommended maximum exposure is 25.
“People should to the best of their ability reduce outdoor activities,” said Beijing’s Environmental Protection Bureau on its verified social media account, adding that fireworks and barbecues were also banned.
“If you are engaging in outdoor activities you should wear a mask or take other protective measures.”
Kindergartens, primary and middle schools were urged to close, it added, without explicitly making the measures mandatory.
The red alert came a week after a thick grey haze shrouded the capital with concentrations of PM2.5 as high as 634 micrograms per cubic metre.
Chinese social media users deemed the government’s protection measures lacklustre.
“If today is a red alert, then what was it I was seeing last week?” asked one incredulous user.
Another felt too battered from the last round of smog to feel consoled by the city’s upgraded alert: “I’m already indifferent, it’s all a gas chamber anyway.”
Beijing declares first-ever red alert for pollution, anticipates new wave of choking smog – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Pollution is blamed for causing hundreds of thousands of early deaths every year.
China is estimated to have emitted nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as the United States in 2013, and around two-and-a-half times the European Union’s total.
Beijing has pledged that emissions will peak “around 2030”, without saying at what level and implying several years of further increases.
It has promised to reduce coal consumption by 100 million tonnes by 2020 — a small fraction of the 4.2 billion tonnes it consumed in 2012 — and cut 60 per cent of “major pollutants” from coal-fired power plants, without specifying the chemicals in question.
On Monday evening PM2.5 levels were 206 micrograms per cubic metre according to the US embassy, and 187 according to local authorities.
But visibility was significantly better than last week.
Published by: ABC News 8/12/2015