Beijing Air Worse Than Official Standard 62.5% of Last Quarter

Air quality in the Chinese cities of Beijing, Tianjin and the surrounding province of Hebei failed to meet government standards on 62.5 percent of days in the third quarter, the nation’s environmental ministry said.

Seven of 10 Chinese cities with the worst air pollution during the three-month period ended in September were in Hebei, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a statement posted to its website yesterday. The other three were Tianjin, Jinan and Zhengzhou, while Beijing wasn’t among them.

Chinese authorities have sought to clean up the nation’s air and water in an effort to assuage public anger sparked by environmental degradation. Pollution is the top cause of social unrest in China, according to Chen Jiping, a former leading member of the Communist Party’s Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs.

In the first half, air quality in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei failed to meet national standards on 69 percent of days, the environment ministry said in July.

The cities of Haikou, Lasa, Yinchuan and Fuzhou met air-quality standards on every day in the third quarter, the ministry said yesterday.

China’s national standard for the concentration of PM2.5, fine air particles that pose the greatest health risk, is 35 micrograms per cubic meter in cities. The World Health Organization advises day-long exposure of no higher than 25. The environment ministry’s statement yesterday didn’t give third-quarter PM2.5 levels for any cities.

Schools Shut

The concentration of PM2.5 in the northern city of Harbin surged to more than 500 micrograms on Oct. 21, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. That forced the city to shut schools and ground flights as air quality deteriorated to “hazardous” levels, according to Harbin Daily, a newspaper controlled by the city government.

Pollution has surged in Harbin since the city began providing public heating from Oct. 20, Xinhua reported yesterday, citing the city’s environmental bureau. The city burns coal to produce steam that’s piped into homes and offices for heating, according to the Harbin Daily. Weaker winds and farmers in the region burning straw in their fields after harvests also contributed to the smog, according to Xinhua.

Harbin met national air-quality standards on more than 80 percent of days in the third quarter, according to the environment ministry.

In Beijing, the concentration of PM2.5 was 25 near Tiananmen Square as of noontime today, according to the website of the city’s air-monitoring center. In January this year, PM2.5 levels in the Chinese capital rose to as high as 993.

Beijing yesterday released plans for dealing with “serious” levels of pollution in the city. The city will order 30 percent of government cars off roads, close kindergartens, middle and primary schools, and halt some industrial production when “serious pollution” is forecast, according to the plan.

— With assistance by Feifei Shen

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