Start of heating season adds to problem; no relief until Friday
Air pollution is worsening in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei province region and nearby areas and is expected to linger until Friday due to unfavorable meteorological conditions for dispersal, authorities said.
Anyang, Henan province - listed as one of the 28 major cities in the region for coordinated action on air pollution control - was the first to see its hourly density of PM 2.5, a major air pollutant, reach heavy pollution level early on Monday. The heavy pollution has gradually been extending to the north, the China National Environmental Monitoring Center said in a statement on Tuesday.
Pollutants started to accumulate on Monday in the region and in the Fenhe and Weihe river plains, primarily in Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces, as meteorological conditions turned unfavorable.
PM2.5 density hit a peak of 206 micrograms per cubic meter at 7 pm on Monday in Kaifeng, Henan province, it said.
Chai Fahe, deputy director of the National Joint Research Center on Air Pollution Causes and Control, said weak wind from the south and high humidity in the region are to blame for the heavy smog. A stable atmosphere and a temperature inversion, which prevents the normal churn of the atmosphere, has occurred in many cities in the region.
He added that the northern parts of the country have entered the period of highest emission, as heating services officially begin on Thursday.
"Currently, emissions from industries and transportation sources in the region remain high. Kicked-up dust has yet to be well-controlled at various large construction sites," Chai said, adding that the start of the heating season will further increase emissions.
Starting on Thursday at noon, cold fronts will gradually clear the haze from north to south, ending this bout with smog on Friday in most areas in the region, the monitoring center said.
Thanks to the cold air, most parts of the region will experience good air quality, although some may be stricken by mild pollution from Friday to Sunday, it said.
Beijing will see heavy air pollution on Wednesday and Thursday morning and mild air pollution on Thursday afternoon, the center said.
The capital's air pollution emergency response office issued a yellow alert for smog on Tuesday, reminding residents to take precautions.
Under Beijing's three-tier warning system, the yellow alert is the least severe, followed by orange and red.
The yellow alert and above will trigger a series of compulsory emergency responses that can include the suspension of outdoor construction operations to reduce dust, the restriction of heavily polluting vehicles and the suspension of production at smokestack industries.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment has sent a notice to the governments of Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong, Henan and Shaanxi provinces, as well as to Beijing and Tianjin, urging them to take emergency response measures, including production restrictions, to help curb the pollution.
As of 8 am on Monday, 25 cities had taken steps as required, according to the ministry.