North China Is Choking On The Smog: Air Pollution Is Killing People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

FRESH air is becoming a luxury for many Chinese. Especially in northern China where many areas been wrapped in heavy smog since last weekend prompting 23 cities to activate red alerts, the highest in a four-tier warning system for severe weather.

Beijing’s environmental monitoring center warned of worse to come today though the smog should disperse overnight due to a north wind.

At least nine of the city’s expressways were closed yesterday morning and, by 2pm, 273 flights had been canceled at Beijing Capital International Airport.

Lessons at kindergartens and primary schools in Beijing, Tianjin, Xi’an and Zhengzhou were suspended, with some high schools also affected.

Beijing-based magazine DUKU sent an apology letter to subscribers, saying its last edition of 2016 would not reach readers until after the New Year due to the temporary closure of a printing plant under the red alert.

Many ready-to-eat products are absent from shelves because of a ban on delivery trucks.

According to a circular released by the neighboring city of Langfang, all restaurants and breakfast stalls in county seats without equipment to deal with fumes have been ordered to halt operations until December 31. Also suspended, until mid-March, are all construction projects in the city.

Escape to Hainan

A resident of Lanzhou, capital of northwest China’s Gansu Province, told reporters in southern China’s Hainan Province that she had flown there with her 2-year-old granddaughter to escape the smog.

“We feel much better here than in Lanzhou,” she said.

Li and her friends are planning to buy houses in Hainan where they can escape during smoggy winters.

On Sunday, two days after Beijing’s red alert, the airport in Haikou, Hainan’s capital, welcomed 32,155 inbound passengers, the highest since October’s National Day holiday.

Liu Lijuan, a fruit and vegetable seller in Hebei Province, says her customers, most of them migrant workers, have little to spend because of work shutdowns due to the smog.

Hebei, one of China’s major steel and coal mining provinces, has shut thousands of factories, construction sites, and even fried-food stalls under red alerts.

“Our company was ordered to halt production on November 20, and 160 of our workers have been temporarily laid off,” said Tian Pengjie at a gypsum factory in the province.

Even under the red alerts, some companies have carried on polluting the air. Xu Ganlu, deputy governor of Henan Province, said the power consumption of the nearly 3,000 companies ordered to halt production had not reduced, indicating they did not halt production. Another 900 companies ordered to limit production did not make any reductions.