More than $ 2.6 billion (18.2 billion Yuan) will be pumped into Beijing’s budget in 2017 to fight air pollution, it was announced over the weekend as northern China including the capital prepares for a heavy bout of smog from Sunday.
After some “blue sky” days last week, a spike was recorded in pollution levels in Beijing on Sunday, with the National Meteorological Centre predicting that smog is expected to hit Beijing, neighbouring Tianjin and Hebei besides Shanxi, Henan and Shaanxi in central China.
Circulars were issued to residents in the regions to take precautions and choose public transport over private vehicles to mitigate pollution levels.
At the beginning of 2017, a red alerts was triggered by severe smog in more than 20 cities. “When authorities issue red alerts, some manufacturers are required to cut production, and heavily polluting vehicles are banned from the roads. China has a four-tier colour-coded warning system for severe weather, with red being the most serious, followed by orange, yellow and blue,” official Xinhua news agency said in a report.
Beijing’s authorities seemed to be gearing up to tackle pollution in 2017. “This year, the city will strengthen air pollution treatment, replace coal with clean energy for 700 villages, phase out 300,000 high-polluting old vehicles, close or upgrade 2,570 polluting factories,” Beijing’s acting mayor Cai Qi was quoted as saying at the annual session of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress, which opened on Saturday.
The city, the report said quoting Cai, will strictly implement emission standards, enhance the environmental law enforcement and establish an environmental protection police force.
He added that acts of discharging pollutants excessively or secretly will be severely punished.
The newly formed smog police for Beijing will be unveiled soon to further carry out checks and implement anti-pollution rules.
“The 150-strong environment, food, drug and tourism safety police force has been established and will be officially inaugurated soon,” a Beijing public security bureau officer was quoted as saying.
The environment police squad has been empowered to detain suspects in serious environment-related cases.
Over the years, Beijing’s air quality has improved.
In 2016, the Chinese capital had 198 days with good air quality, a rise of 12 days from 2015.
The Xinhua report said its average density of PM2.5, airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diametre, was 73 micrograms per cubic metre in 2016, down 9.9% from 2015.
The city aims to control the annual average density of PM2.5 to around 60 micrograms per cubic metre this year, said Lu Yan, head of the Beijing Development and Reform Commission.