Palaces in the Forbidden City are seen during the heavy smog in Beijing, China, 14 January 2013. Photo: Imaginechina via AP Images

14 January 2013 (Bloomberg News) – China shut dozens of factories and pulled government cars off the road to limit pollution that hit hazardous levels for a third day, as state media said Beijing was becoming more famous for its smog than its culture or food.

A cold front and strong winds tonight are forecast to clear the smog and pollution levels will be “good” in the next two days, Beijing’s environmental agency said in a briefing yesterday. China Daily said yesterday the city was becoming better know for “Beijing Cough” afflicting its residents than it was for Peking Duck or Peking Opera.

With hospitals reporting more patients who complained of heart and respiratory ailments, the government orders were part of expanding efforts to tackle the pollution. The reaction reflects a growing awareness within the Communist Party that pollution is becoming a main instigator for social unrest, environmentalist Dai Qing said in an interview.

“For so many years we all tried to do something and the authorities gave us no reply,” Dai said. “But once people have no water, no air, no land -- something will happen. It’s very dangerous.”

Official measurements of PM2.5, fine airborne particulates that pose the largest health risks, rose as high as 993 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing on Jan. 12, compared with World Health Organization guidelines of no more than 25. PM2.5 levels had eased to 66 as of 7 a.m. this morning near Tiananmen Square, according to the city’s air quality website.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported Dec. 31 that Beijing’s air quality has improved for 14 straight years. China Daily reported that in 2011, Beijing had 286 “Blue Sky Days,” a metric it stopped using last year. […]

While the smog captured headlines and drew complaints on Beijing’s streets, foreign companies see China’s growth -- forecast at 8.1 percent in 2013 -- as an opportunity.

“In the long term, China is a fast growing economy,” Richard Solomons, chief executive officer of Intercontinental Hotel Groups, told Bloomberg Television in an interview from Beijing yesterday. “We’re growing the business fast.”

China Shuts Factories in Latest Bid to Cut Pollution Levels

By Adam Taylor
15 January 2013

(Business Insider) – China's smog problem is reaching historically high levels, with air quality in parts of the country now 40 times higher than standards set by the WHO.

There's also serious visibility problems — and these can have real ramifications.

State news agency Xinhua reported Monday that a fire in a 1,000 square foot factory in China’s Zhejiang province went unnoticed for 3 hours as locals couldn't tell the difference between the smoke and the smog blanketing the area. By the time anyone noticed, the fire was out of control.

When firefighters finally arrived, it took them 10 hours to finally put out the blaze.

China's Smog Is So Bad No One Noticed A Factory Was On Fire

15 January 2013 (Bloomberg News) – Li Keqiang, set to become China’s next premier, called for the nation’s citizens to have patience as authorities work to reduce pollution in the world’s second- biggest economy.

“Production, construction, consumption cannot come at the price of hurting the environment,” Li said in comments broadcast by state radio today. “The current situation wasn’t created in one or two days, it accumulated over a long time. Solving this problem will also be a long-term process.”

Record levels of pollution in Beijing increased the number patients visiting hospitals with heart and respiratory ailments and prompted calls for action in state media including the China Daily newspaper, which said the capital was becoming better known for “Beijing Cough” afflicting its residents than for Peking Duck or Peking Opera. Li is the most-senior official to have commented since smog levels surged Jan. 12.

Official measures of PM2.5, fine airborne particulates that pose the largest health risk, rose to as high as 993 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing on Jan. 12, compared with World Health Organization guidelines of no more than 25. The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs estimated that the Jan. 12 levels were a record high for the city.

Pollution levels eased in Beijing today after the government expanded efforts to curb emissions by shutting factories and ordering official cars off roads. The light wind that had blown the smog against mountains to Beijing’s north also shifted south and the city saw light snowfall. [more]

China’s Li Calls for Patience as Government Works to Reduce Smog

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