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SHANGHAI Dec 21 Northern China was shrouded in
smog for a fifth straight day on Wednesday as citizens
complained that the state's emergency measures were still not
being implemented properly.
Residents in Shijiazhuang, the capital of heavily
industrialised Hebei province that surrounds Beijing, complained
that schools were still open even though the city remained on
red alert with air pollution levels close to record highs.
Media reports in central China's Henan province also carried
images of students taking exams in the smoggy open air.
"We already don't know how long this smog will last, so why
aren't classes being stopped?" a Shijiazhuang resident posted on
China's Twitter-like Weibo microblogging service.
"The students are wearing masks every day and attending
class in a daze, the windows are sealed shut and they don't dare
to ventilate and visibility is at just 20 metres," the post said
China began a "war on pollution" in 2014 amid concern its
heavy industrial past was tarnishing its global reputation and
holding back its future development. However, it has struggled
to reverse the damage done by decades of breakneck economic
growth, much of it based on the coal-burning power sector.
The air quality index (AQI) in the major steel-producing
district of Fengnan in the Hebei city of Tangshan was still as
high as 578 on Wednesday morning. Red alerts are issued when the
AQI is forecast to exceed 200 for more than four days in a row,
300 for more than two days or 500 for at least 24 hours.
Concentrations of hazardous breathable particles known as
PM2.5, another pollution gauge, were at a dangerous 380
micrograms per cubic metre. PM2.5 levels also remained high in
Beijing, with average readings of 360 micrograms per cubic
metre, according to official data. The safe recommended level of
PM2.5 is 10 micrograms per cubic metre, according to the World
The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, known as Jing-Jin-Ji, has
been at the forefront of China's efforts to cut pollution and
has pledged to cut emissions of PM2.5 by 25 percent over the
However, Guo Jinlong, Beijing's top Communist Party
official, told a government meeting on Tuesday the heavy smog
could make it harder for the region to meet its annual targets.
He said more work was required to ensure emergency measures
were implemented in full, according to an account of the meeting
released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
The ministry has been naming and shaming companies in recent
months for failing to cut output during bouts of smog, and it
has also accused local authorities of monitoring lapses.
Many Beijing citizens have been blaming lax enforcement in
other regions, including Shanxi and Inner Mongolia, China's two
biggest coal producers.
Researchers said on Wednesday that although around 30
percent of the PM2.5 in the Jing-Jin-Ji region this week had
drifted in from other provinces, mainly Shandong and Henan, the
bulk of pollution sources remained local.
(Reporting by David Stanway and the Shanghai newsroom; Editing
by Paul Tait)