Guangzhou has introduced a new system of red and orange alerts that is aimed at helping the city solve its air pollution problem. A China Daily article has listed some of the new measures but is somewhat light on the details of how any of it is going to be enforced.
Under the new system, a red alert will be issued when the air quality index (AQI) is forecast to exceed 300 at more than half of the city’s 10 monitoring stations. Cars in the city will be allowed on the road only on alternate days during red alerts, according to the rules approved on Monday. Orange alerts will be issued when air quality index falls between 201 to 300. If an orange alert is issued, businesses that fail to meet emissions standards will be required to cease emissions altogether.
Thirty percent of government cars will remain parked if air pollution hits serious levels. Twenty percent will be kept off the road during orange alerts.
The mayor himself has pledged to change his commuting habits to help the environment.
The paper has more:
Construction sites that put dust and fumes in the air, as well as fireworks and outdoor barbecues will be banned during orange alerts.
The government’s fleet of 13,000 cars accounts for about 0.6 percent of the cars in Guangzhou, Yang Liu, director of the city’s environmental protection bureau, said at a news conference on Monday.
“In difficult times, public servants should take the lead in taking action to address environmental pollution.”
Yang said Guangzhou Mayor Chen Jianhua pledged to go to work by subway during any environmental emergencies.
Asked whether schools would be suspended during a red alert, Yang said education authorities would address that issue.
In the past three years, the city’s air quality has never deteriorated to a level that would today prompt a red alert, Yang said.
An orange alert would have been issued twice in 2011 and three times last year. No orange alert would have been warranted so far this year.
Guangzhou’s air quality complied with the standard on 210 of the 274 days in the first three quarters of this year, according to Yang’s bureau.
Excellent air quality was recorded on 73 days, good air quality on 137 days, light pollution on 55 days and medium pollution on eight days.
Readings that failed the standards mainly involved ozone, nitrogen dioxide and PM2.5 — particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.
Of the six air pollution indexes, the PM2.5 reading failed the standard by the largest margin, averaging 47 micrograms per cubic meter and exceeding the standard by 34 percent in the three quarters.
Guangzhou’s PM2.5 readings will decrease by more than 6 percent in 2015 compared with the 2010 levels, according to the city’s environmental protection plan.
Although there is reason to be skeptical as to whether the measures will be successful, their introduction shows that the issue of air pollution has truly taken centre stage. Long-term China watcher Isabel Hilton had this to say:
There was a time, maybe ten years ago, when people were almost proud of smog because it meant ‘we’re industrializing, we’re becoming a real country, we have the problems of modernity rather than the problems of the middle ages.’ So this was regarded as progress….that moment has definitely passed, and these very serious episodes have brought terrific pressure on the government. If you are the only power, you also are the only people to blame, and they know that.