As Beijing suffers extremely hazardous amounts of smog pollution for the second time within seven days, the city has issued a red alert for the first time ever. The red alert is the highest alert in a four-tier system and takes effect from 7:00 a.m. Tuesday morning local time until 12:00 p.m. on Thursday.
In efforts to keep its citizens safe, Beijing ordered elementary and secondary schools to shut down. It also recommended that government agencies, public offices and private companies observe flexible working hours.
Officials will also have to heavily control traffic in the city. Car usage will be reduced based on licence plate numbers - those ending in odd numbers will travel on alternating days with those vehicles ending in even numbers. Moreover, government agencies must reduce their use of cars by 30%.
Large and heavy construction vehicles will be prohibited and public transportation will expand their schedules. Factories will close for two days or face certain restrictions and all outdoor construction will stop.
On a smaller scale, barbecues and firework displays are prohibited.
The smog pollution is forecasted to reach its highest levels on Wednesday. The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center predicted that the heavy smog will last until Thursday night when a cold front and strong winds are expected to return clear skies to the region.
The real time air pollution index of Beijing recorded levels of between 200 and 260 yesterday, which is classified as “very unhealthy”. Beijing and nearby cities have been under an orange alert (the second highest alert) since Saturday.
Meteorologists expect the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region to experience another bout of smog next week beginning December 14th.
At last week’s global warming summit held in Paris, China’s President Xi Jinping promised to fight global warming and agreed to work with other countries to lower greenhouse gases. It looks like he’ll have his work cut out for him in his own country.