|Photo taken on Jan. 13, 2013 shows the fog-shrouded buildings at the Central Bussiness District in Beijing, capital of China. Dense fog on Sunday hit China's east and central regions from the northeast to the south, causing serious air pollution. (Xinhua/Liu Changlong) |
BEIJING, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- Beijing's air pollution reached dangerous levels yet again on Sunday, marking the third consecutive day of severe smog, municipal environmental authorities said.
The municipal meteorological station issued the city's first orange fog warning Sunday morning due to decreased visibility caused by the heavy smog.
Monitoring data released on Sunday showed that air quality indexes in most regions of Beijing had hit 500, the indexes' highest level.
"Beijing implemented its emergency response plan for hazardous pollution for the first time on Sunday," said Yu Jianhua, director of the air quality department under the municipal environmental protection bureau.
The plan, issued last year, includes multiple measures to combat and respond to hazardous levels of air pollution.
The plan calls for construction sites to limit construction activity that creates large amounts of dust, as well as asks industrial enterprises to reduce emissions, during hazardous pollution days.
The plan also requires municipal traffic authorities to limit government vehicle usage during smoggy days, with the goal of reducing such usage by 30 percent compared to normal days.
The plan also calls for education authorities to instruct schools to limit or completely stop outdoor activity during periods of heavy air pollution.
The municipal environmental monitoring center said readings for PM2.5, or airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, had reached more than 700 micrograms per square meter at several monitoring stations in Beijing, reaching as high as 993 Saturday evening.
"These figures represent extremely bad pollution. Pollutants have gradually accumulated over the course of recent windless days, making the air quality even worse," said Zhu Tong, a professor from the college of environmental sciences and engineering at Peking University.
The pollution is expected to engulf Beijing until Wednesday, when wind will arrive to blow the smog away, according to a weather report from the meteorological station.
Thick smog pushed the sales of protection masks in drugstores and online stores as the foggy weather expanded to many parts of northern and eastern China.
Sales volume of a type of mask on Taobao.com and Tmall.com, two popular online marketplaces, has increased ten times ever since Friday, when the hazardous smoggy weather was forecasted.
The capital's deteriorated air quality also stirred wide public concerns and complains.
As of 7 p.m. Sunday, "the smoggy weather" topped the hot topics on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo with about 7.68 million entries calling for the air pollution control and reflections on economic growth mode and lifestyle.
"The masks, which I stored since 2003 for the prevention of SARS, finally come into use in such days," said a netizen named Xiaoyuer.
"I would like to go back to the 1980's if the city had to pay such painful price for economic development," Xiaoyuer added.
"Some wedding cars lost their fleet in the dense haze and had to wait on the southern section of Beijing Fourth Ring Road," said a netizen named Shanchuandahe on the Sina Weibo.
Shanchuandahe, who planned to visit his relatives in Tianjin, said he had to drive back home as the expressway was closed by the smog.
"Definitely, the public are increasingly concerned about environment problems, while combating pollution and transforming economic development mode are pressing tasks for the government," said Prof. Zhu Tong.