Many cities continue to choke as smog gets worse

SEVERE smog continued to shroud many parts of China yesterday, disrupting life in dozens of cities.

The education bureau in Zhengzhou, capital of central China’s Henan Province, ordered all primary schools to cancel classes for the next two days.

Northeast China’s Liaoning Province saw its most severe smog in seven years, with poor visibility closing 18 expressways.

Tianjin airport suspended services between 8:30pm on Sunday and 10am yesterday, leaving 131 flights canceled and 75 delayed. Meanwhile, all expressways in the northern city were closed.

Tianjin authorities increased public transport capacity by 15 percent to accommodate passengers, as cars have been ordered to run on alternate days for five days until midnight tomorrow.

Beijing also increased its public transport and implemented the same odd-even number plate rule.

In the eastern province of Shandong, more than 100 toll gates on four expressways were closed and some flights at the provincial capital’s airport were delayed by more than two hours.

The smog that began to envelop Beijing, Tianjin and the provinces of Hebei, Henan and Shandong over the weekend is forecast to clear on Thursday. Over 20 cities have issued red alerts for smog.

Yesterday, PM2.5 readings in many cities in northern China exceeded 500 micrograms per cubic meter. The reading at one station in Shijiazhuang, Hebei’s capital, exceeded 1,000 mgs.

Meanwhile, an attempt by Beijing and Shanghai to classify smog as a natural disaster has sparked a backlash from meteorologists and other scientists.

China’s Meteorological Law and Meteorological Disaster Prevention Law includes typhoons, torrential rain and hailstorms on the natural disaster list, but not smog.

Wang Zifa of the institute of atmospheric physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that as smog is mainly caused by human activity it cannot be considered a natural disaster. If it were, authorities would not have to take full responsibility for it.

Lu Zhongmei, deputy director of the social and legal affairs committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, questioned why smog should be listed as a meteorological disaster, when acid rain is not.

Smog is an environmental issue and is specified as such in many regulations, with relevant parties being held accountable, said Chang Jiwen, deputy director of the resources and environmental policy research institute of the Development Research Center of the State Council.

Officials with Beijing’s legal affairs committee said its attempt to reclassify smog would not change anything and the city would continue to manage smog relief.

Zhu Xiao of Renmin University of China said calling smog a natural disaster would add an unnecessary level of uncertainty to environmental lawsuits.

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