Beijing creates smog squad

City officials have created a new environmental police squad in an effort to tackle Beijing’s persistent smog problems. The city was under an orange alert last week, the second-highest warning level in China’s four-tiered system.

The Associated Press reported that Beijing’s acting mayor, Cai Qi, is taking steps to root out illegal burning in the city by forming an environmental police squad. His announcement is regarded as a response to widespread public anger over China’s persistent smog problems.

Open-air barbecues, garbage incineration and the burning of wood and other biomass will be targeted and hit with fines or other punishments if they are breaching pollution response plans.

Cai also announced several other measures to tackle the persistent smog, such as cutting the use of coal by 30 per cent in 2017, shutting down some 500 high-polluting factories and upgrading 2,500 more. 300,000 high-pollution vehicles will also be restricted from entering Beijing starting next month.

Enforcement remains a problem across China. During last week’s red alert – when more than 20 cities were under the highest smog warning level – inspection teams found that more than 500 construction sites and companies, including metallurgy, agricultural, chemical and steel plants, had resumed production despite a government ban, reported AP.

The new environmental police squad could strengthen supervision and law enforcement, but some question if it’s the right response given that China’s pollution is primarily caused by its thousands of coal-burning factors and surplus of older vehicles, explained AP. China is also the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal.

Like many of China’s larger cities, Beijing spends many winter days choked by smog, with air pollution levels that routinely exceed World Health Organization guidelines, according to the article.


Photo credit: Lei Han, flickr/Creative Commons

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