Chinese capital on Monday extended the orange alert for heavy air pollution for another three days as toxic smog continued to choke Beijing in the New Year, forcing authorities to cancel hundreds of flights in the neighbouring Tianjin city. The orange alert, the second highest after red which was originally effective from Friday to Sunday, will not be lifted until Wednesday midnight, a statement issued by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said.
There is criticism as why Beijing has not declared a red alert in the last a few days despite heavy pollution levels which reached hazardous levels in the last couple of days.
The Bureau said Air quality will improve today because of weak cold air, but will return to the medium or heavy air pollution level tomorrow and on Wednesday.
Under the emergency plan, heavy polluting gasoline-fuelled vehicles and trucks carrying construction garbage are banned from roads. Some manufacturing firms are required to cut production.
Beijing has a four-tier alert system for pollution, with red being the highest followed by orange, yellow and blue. The orange alert means the air quality index is forecast to exceed 200 for three consecutive days.
Meanwhile, the neighbouring Tianjin city cancelled hundreds of flights because of the heavy smog that limited visibility on Sunday. The municipal government issued the orange alert for smog and haze on Saturday night.
An orange alert means heavy pollution – PM2.5 higher than 150 – for three consecutive days. A total of 309 flights have been cancelled, 15 forced to land in other airports and one returned, Xinhua reported.
Emergency plans have been activated to take care of the stranded passengers. All highways in the city have also been closed, the city’s transport authorities said yesterday. Local weather bureau forecast the ongoing smog will continue till January 5 when a cold haze will disperse the pollution.
Tianjin is a frequent victim of smog that is common in the winter in north China where cold weather and burning of the dirty coal for heating combine to exacerbate the situation.