China Focus: NE China governments move to tackle heavy smog

CHANGCHUN/SHENYANG, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- Smog in northeastern Chinese provinces through the weekend shows no signs of dispersing, prompting local governments to take emergency measures.

Density of PM2.5, airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, reached the highest level, cutting visibility, grounding flights and closing highways.

PM2.5 concentration went off the charts in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning. The air-quality index (AQI) in six cities in the province exceeded the maximum of 500 on Sunday. Eight of the 14 cities were still labeled as "seriously polluted" on Monday.

Patients with respiratory ailments jammed hospitals. Face masks were sold out.

The AQI in Changchun, Jilin Province topped 500, reducing the visibility in downtown areas to less than 100 meters.

According to the provincial transport department, 87 flights were delayed or canceled as of 8 a.m. on Monday. Highways connecting Changchun and other cities in the province were completely or partially closed.

Local meteorological department blamed winter heating, crop residue burning, a relatively weak cold front, and recent rain and snow.

Besides issuing emergency warnings, local governments have taken measures to counter the worst smog of the year.

Liaoning ordered all environmental employees to be on call 24 hours a day, sent staff to monitor emissions at key factories.

Zhu Jinghai, the provincial environment head, said 14 teams had been dispatched to the 14 cities in Liaoning to make sure all the emergency measures are strictly adhered to.

In Changchun, an emergency action plan urges citizens to stay indoors; schools and kindergartens have been asked to stop organizing outdoor activities and take protective measures.

The local government has instructed industrial enterprises to limit production or halt manufacturing, suspended construction work and road excavation, and banned crop residue burning and fireworks.

Local meteorological, transport and environment departments release and update information and travel advice via both traditional channels such as radio and TV, and social media including WeChat, Weibo and some mobile apps.

However, Zhang Bin of Changchun city environmental protection department, said it takes time for those measures to produce desired result, and the government still has a long way to go in balancing winter heating and air pollution control.

Source URL: Xinhua