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Pollution advice from China: Cut down on burning fossil fuel

If Delhi blames crop burning in Punjab and Haryana for the current bout of heavy pollution, Beijing has what is called the “industrial rust belt” surrounding it.

world Updated: Nov 08, 2017 16:09 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
China pollution,delhi pollution,fossil fuel
A woman wearing a protective pollution mask walks on a street in Beijing in March.(AFP File)

The minister for environmental protection Li Ganjie was candid when he said in Beijing last month that a “tough battle” remains to be fought despite China’s gradual achievements in pollution control.

That fight will not be made easy by adverse weather conditions, which frequently worsens pollution over Beijing and much of northern China.

“Strong thermal inversion, (when warm air rises to trap pollutants below), pollutant accumulation and weak cold air are the primary causes of the heavy air pollution that is forecast in Beijing for the coming days,” Beijing local government said last week.

“In addition, Beijing and many cities in the region are backed by mountains, which intensified the accumulation of pollutants generated in those cities and blown from plain regions,” the official news agency Xinhua said in a report.

If Delhi blames crop burning in Punjab and Haryana for the current bout of heavy pollution, Beijing has what is called the “industrial rust belt” surrounding it.

There are thousands of factories around Beijing and in its six neighbouring provinces and regions like Tianjin, Hebei, Henan, Shanxi, Shandong and Inner Mongolia.

“Wind patterns or air mass movements are an important reason (for pollution accumulation.) The current Delhi pollution is happening because of transfer of pollution from crop burning areas. Beijing pollution is from industrial rust belt areas,” Lauri Myllyvirta, Beijing-based energy analyst with environment advocacy group Greenpeace told the Hindustan Times. But despite adverse weather, steps can be taken to reduce the impact of pollution.

“Tackle the pollution at the local or regional level and use pollution forecasts to initiate short-term measures before the smog-forming conditions start,” Myllyvirta said.

China has a four-tier colour-coded system for air pollution, with red being the most serious, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

The campaign to control pollution is working gradually.

Since 2013, the number of heavy pollution days (days when the air quality index is higher than 100) has dropped from 58 days to 39 in 2016.

But the only long-term solution is to cut down on burning fossil fuels, experts say.

For example, progress on air pollutioncontrol stalled in the regionafter a stimulus push started by the government in early 2016, leading to a temporary increase in output and prices of steel, cement and other products from highly polluting industries.

But the plan now is to gradually curb polluting industries to begin with.

The environment ministry has launched a campaign against heavy air pollution in autumn and winter in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and surrounding areas from 2017 to 2018.

“The campaign will mainly focus on curbing pollution by industrial enterprises, cutting coal consumption and improving emergency responses to heavy pollution weather,” minister Li said.

First Published: Nov 08, 2017 16:08 IST