Beijing’s polluted haze has reached poisonous levels and an Orange alert – the second highest level in the capital’s warning system- has been issued.
With severe smog forecast in the city for another three days, is issuing such an alert the solution to the problem? Perhaps not.
The health of hundreds of thousands of people is at risk and there are no effective measures being taken.
Beijing has a four-tier alert system, with blue, yellow, orange and red indicating the severity of air pollution levels. .
Considering that the air over the Chinese capital has been severely polluted for such an extended period of time, perhaps a red alert needs to be issued. However, Beijing's alert system requires a forecast indicating pollution at the highest level for three days in a row before a red alert can be issued.
China says it has an emergency plan to yank half the city's cars off the road, but it’s easier said than done.
There have been bans on barbeques, fireworks and demolition work, while the children and the elderly have been advised to stay indoors or wear masks when going out. Meanwhile, 36 companies have been asked to halt production and another 75 to reduce it.
Though residents have been advised to take public transport and reduce driving, there has been no order to take cars off the roads yet. The agency urged middle schools, primary schools and kindergartens to reduce the outdoor activities of their students.
However, all these steps are not likely to do any good in the long run.
In January this year, a similar alert was issued, shutting down 103 factories, while 30 percent of government vehicles were taken off the roads. Despite these actions, the city is faced with the same dilemma just over a month later.
In 2011, there was a campaign by local property tycoon Pan Shiyi, appealing for tighter monitoring procedures, but nothing worthwhile came out of that either.
Earlier this month, it was said that the Chinese government was considering a sweeping reorganization of cabinet ministries as early as March. This would include the dissolution of the Ministry of Land and Resources and transfer of some powers to the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP).
However, the MEP doesn’t have too much power and are expected to be given the authority to impose unlimited penalties on firms that fail to comply with the ministry’s regulations.
It is about time action is taken before there are deadly consequences. Last year, an 8-year-old girl contracted lung cancer. She was the youngest ever case suffering from the disease in this region and the doctors blamed air pollution as well as exposure to harmful particles and dust over a sustained period for her condition. .
Deaths from lung cancer have multiplied more than four times over the past 30 years in China with cancer now being the leading cause in the smog-ridden capital.