Beijing Sets Orange Smog Alert as Pollution Keeps Going Up

Feb 21, 2014 3:49 am ET

(Updates with new alert in first paragraph.)

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Beijing raised its air pollution alert to orange as smog levels were projected to stay hazardous this weekend, triggering orders for some enterprises to limit production and and a ban on outdoor barbecues and fireworks.

Drivers were asked to reduce vehicle-use and take public transport, while the elderly and children were advised to stay indoors. The concentration of PM2.5, fine particulates that pose the greatest risk to human health, was 237 micrograms per cubic meter at 3 p.m. near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website. That’s more than nine times World Health Organization recommended levels.

The orange alert is part of a new pollution monitoring plan announced in October to help cope with heavy air pollution, with alerts from the most serious to less serious tagged red, orange, yellow and blue. The city upgraded its alert from yesterday’s yellow warning that called for measures such as increased road cleaning and spraying of water at construction sites, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau’s website.

The city’s monitoring center forecasts the pollution will remain heavy or severe until Sunday. Inaction by officials in the capital over the heaviest air pollution in a month flies in the face of their promises, the official China Daily said in a Feb. 17 editorial. Rather than making rules to curb air pollution, the government should set penalties for violations, China Daily said.

Least Hospitable

Pollution in Beijing and Shanghai places them among the least hospitable of 40 international cities listed in a report by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, which ranked Beijing second from the bottom, ahead of Moscow.

Cities elsewhere in north China were also shrouded with smog, with air quality indexes in Shijiazhuang and Xingtai in Hebei province showing severe pollution, according to data from the China National Environment Monitoring Center. As of 2 p.m., levels of PM2.5 were as high as 410 in Shijiazhuang and 470 in Xingtai.

--Daryl Loo, Feifei Shen and Li Liu. Editors: Nicholas Wadhams, Rosalind Mathieson