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Herculean Effort to Clean Beijing’s Air May Be in Vain as Pollution Forecasted

Posted: 11/8/2014 11:28 am

apec ball buildingA tremendous effort has been made to clean up the air around Beijing in advance of the APEC summit. The “war on air pollution” is the largest mobilization of resources to improve air quality since the Olympic Games in 2008, 2010 Shanghai Expo and this year’s Nanjing Youth Olympic Games.

However, while the sky might be “APEC Blue” right now, it looks like even Beijing’s herculean efforts won’t be enough to let the sun shine through. Heavy pollution is forecast for the region around Beijing from November 8 to 11, which means Beijing might lose face in front of foreign guests. That means somebody must be punished.

That indeed will happen as 24 Shijiazhuang officials will apparently face consequences for failing in their promise to make Beijing’s air quality comply with regulations for APEC. Another five people working for ‘problematic companies’ (which we think are companies that add to pollution) have been detained and fined RMB 350,000.

The efforts to reduce emissions and increase air quality have involved a number of provinces including Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong, Inner Mongolia, and Henan. Tianjin has also been doing everything it can.

The New York Times outlines some of the extreme measures being taken to cut down on pollution:

Thousands of factories have closed and thousands more have been ordered to reduce emissions by 30 percent. Around Beijing, in an area nearly the size of California, tens of millions of people in 17 major cities can drive only on alternate days, depending on whether their license plates end in an odd or even number. Trucks carrying goods can enter Beijing only between midnight and 3 a.m., affecting deliveries of supplies like furniture and milk.

Gas stations have been barred from selling gas in canisters, and some have been shut entirely, though these measures may be aimed more to discourage the making of firebombs than to clear the air.

The government has also tried to shed some of the city’s 21 million people, declaring an APEC Golden Week, a six-day vacation modeled on the Golden Week public officials get each year around National Day in early October. Public schools have been closed, work has been halted on construction sites, and public services such as issuing marriage licenses and passports have been suspended.

Newlyweds may not set off firecrackers, a common feature of a wedding celebration. Hospitals have closed nonessential departments and are turning away patients with nonemergency ailments.

All mining in Hebei is reported to have stopped as well, and police will investigate any reports of people burning their trash.

Photo: Caijing

  • terroir

    Top picture: The grand Chinese tradition of architecture that looks like things continues with a 1000:1 scale model of a helmet that a man with an afro can wear.

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