Beijing Raises ‘Red Alert’ Threshold for Air Pollution Warning

Beijing is to raise the thresholds for issuing its highest air pollution warnings, the state news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday, two months after acrid smog triggered the city’s first ever “red alert”.

In future, the highest alert will be issued only when the daily average air quality index (AQI) is forecast to exceed 500 for a day, 300 for two days in a row or 200 for four days, Xinhua reported, citing Beijing’s environmental protection bureau.

At present, a red alert is issued when the AQI is forecast to exceed 200, a level the US deems “very unhealthy”, for at least three days.

Schools were closed and outdoor construction work was suspended when thick smog prompted Beijing to issued its first red alert in December 2015.

The new criteria take effect at the end of March and are designed to standardise pollution alerts across Beijing, the neighbouring port city of Tianjin and four cities in the surrounding Hebei province, Xinhua reported.

Liu Wei, deputy head of the emergency response office at the environmental protection bureau, said the move would in effect tighten the pollution controls for the outlying regions, according to Xinhua.

Pollution is a sensitive topic in China, with thousands of protests sparked every year by concerns about environmental degradation.

Environmental officials admit China is unlikely to meet the air quality standards set by the state until at least 2030.

Beijing, one of China’s most polluted cities, announced in January it would close 2,500 small highly polluting firms in 2016. It also plans to develop a network of ventilation “corridors” to help disperse smog, Xinhua reported on Sunday.

Feb. 21 2016 on The Guardian

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