BEIJING Jan 2 Heavy smog that blanketed
northern China at the weekend cleared somewhat on Monday, with
flights in Beijing back to normal, but it was likely only to be
a brief respite with more choking smog expected to return to the
wintry north within 24 hours.
Weather forecasts on Monday showed the smog would return to
Beijing and nearby Tianjin city from Tuesday. It was expected to
persist until Thursday in Hebei, the heavily industrialised
province that surrounds the Chinese capital, and Henan and
Shandong provinces as the north battles freezing temperatures.
Authorities have been issuing smog alerts across China's
north since mid-December, leading to orders for hundreds of
factories to cut production or close outright and for
restrictions on motorists to cut emissions.
Pollution alerts are common in northern China, especially
during winter when energy demand, much of it met by coal, soars.
A pollution index that measures the average concentration of
small breathable particles, known as PM2.5, dropped to just over
100 micrograms per cubic metre in Beijing early on Monday from
more than 500 on Sunday night.
The safe recommended level of PM2.5 is 10 micrograms per
cubic metre, according to the World Health Organization.
A customer service staff member at the Beijing Capital
International Airport said flights were returning to normal.
Heavy smog on Sunday caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled
and highways to shut, disrupting the first day of the New Year
On Monday, the Beijing government maintained its orange
alert for heavy pollution and continued a ban on heavy-duty
construction trucks from using the roads.
An orange alert is the second-highest level in a four-tier
pollution warning system adopted by Beijing when China, worried
that its heavy industrial past was tarnishing its global
reputation and holding back development, declared a "war on
pollution" in 2014.
Despite that declaration, public anger is mounting about
pollution and what many Chinese see as government talk, but
little action, to end it. That anger has occasionally spilled
over into protests.
Late on Sunday, the Ministry of Environmental Protection
said 62 northern cities had issued yellow, orange or red alerts.
The latest bout of air pollution began on Friday. China has
struggled to tackle the problem effectively after decades of
breakneck economic growth, much of it based on heavy industry
and the coal-fired power sector.
(Reporting by Cheng Fang and Chen Aizhu; Editing by Paul Tait)