China warns of widespread smog, Beijing issues second ‘red alert’

admin   •   December 18, 2015   •   1147

A man wearing a face mask walks on a bridge in front of the financial district of Pudong amid heavy smog in Shanghai, China, December 15, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song

A man wearing a face mask walks on a bridge in front of the financial district of Pudong amid heavy smog in Shanghai, China, December 15, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song

China warned residents across a large part of northern China on Friday to prepare for a wave of choking smog arriving over the weekend, the worst of which is expected to over capital Beijing, prompting the city to issue its second ever “red alert”.

The National Meteorological Centre said the smog would stretch from Xian, home to the Terracotta Warriors, across part of central China, through Beijing and up into Shenyang and Harbin in China’s frigid northeast.

The air pollution will begin rolling in from about Saturday evening and last until Tuesday, with visibility in the worst affected areas such as Beijing likely to fall to less than one kms (0.6 miles), it said.

In Beijing and parts of Hebei province, which surrounds the capital, the pollution index will probably exceed 500, it said. At levels higher than 300, residents are encouraged to remain indoors, according to government guidelines.

The Beijing city government issued its first “red alert” last week following criticism that previous bouts of smog had failed to trigger the highest warning level.

A red alert is triggered when the government believes air quality will surpass a level of 200 on an air quality index that measures various pollutants for at least three days. The U.S. government deems a level of more than 200 “very unhealthy”.

In Beijing, a red alert means around half the vehicles are removed from the roads with an odd-even license plate system enforced, schools are recommended to close and outdoor construction banned.

Beijing is not the only city to have a colored alert system, and the restrictions rolled out in the most severe cases are broadly similar.

Beijing’s neighboring city of Tianjin also aims to remove about half of all cars from the road in the event of a red alert.

Shenyang said it was issuing an orange warning for the weekend, meaning it recommended people not spend too much time outdoors, while the Harbin government said it expected generally clear skies over the coming days with some smog spells.

After decades of unbridled economic growth, China’s leadership has vowed to crack down on severe levels of air, water and soil pollution, including the heavy smog that often blankets major cities.

Beijing’s second red alert comes after a landmark climate agreement was reached in Paris earlier this month, setting a course to move away from a fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.

City residents have previously criticized authorities for being too slow to issue red alerts for heavy smog, which often exceeds hazardous levels on pollution indices.

Environmental Protection Minister Chen Jining vowed this month to punish agencies and officials for any failure to implement a pollution emergency response plan quickly, the state-run Global Times tabloid said.

Many cities around China suffer from high levels of pollution, with Shanghai schools banning outdoor activities and authorities limiting work at construction sites and factories earlier this week.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Adam Jourdan in SHANGHAI; Editing by Paul Tait and Michael Perry)


Smog in Metro Manila due to ‘human activities’ pollution, not Taal Volcano — Phivolcs

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Tuesday (June 29) clarified that the smog experienced in Metro Manila is the effect of pollution from human activities and not from Taal Volcano.

Phivolcs observed high levels of volcanic sulfur dioxide or SO2 gas emissions and steam-rich plumes in the past days. SO2  emission averaged 14,326 tonnes per day as of June 28.

Several residents in Metro Manila observed haze in their area which caused concern especially with the volcanic gas emission in Taal Volcano.

“The haze which is being experienced by some residents of Metro Manila is smog caused by pollution and human activity. The haze is not from Taal Volcano,” the agency said.

Meanwhile, residents near Taal Volcano were advised to take precautions including staying indoors and wearing masks to prevent exposure to SO2.

According to Phivolcs, the Taal region continues to undergo very slow extension since 2020. These parameters indicate overall that magmatic unrest continues to occur at shallow depths beneath the edifice. Alert Level 2 (Increased Unrest) is currently maintained over Taal Volcano. AAC

Bangkok schools shut as Thai PM blames public for toxic smog

UNTV News   •   January 22, 2020

A Thai Buddhist monk wears a face mask to guard against poor air quality during morning alms in Bangkok, Thailand, 16 January 2020. EFE-EPA/NARONG SANGNAK

By Lobsang DS Subirana

Bangkok – Hundreds of schools closed Wednesday in Thailand’s capital after an order from authorities, following air pollution levels in the city that have exceeded hazardous levels for weeks and have even seen the prime minister blame the public for the issue.

The persistence of toxic smog that blankets Bangkok led the city’s metropolitan administration to order 437 schools closed, a recurrent annual event in a city that has suffered from the authorities’ inaction to tackle this major public health concern.

“In Bangkok, 437 schools will be closed for one day starting [Wednesday] to avoid the danger of harmful particles exceeding healthy standards and to help reduce the number of cars on the road that have to pick up and drop off students during rush hour,” Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang wrote Tuesday in a statement posted to his Facebook page.

The city’s levels of PM2.5 particles, the finest and most harmful kind, have regularly exceeded its own 50-microgram per cubic meter “safe” threshold – set at double that of the World Health Organization’s at 25 micrograms per cubic meter – in the first weeks of the year.

Monitoring agency Air Visual counted 10 days of the last two weeks in which the air quality exceeded local thresholds – and WHO thresholds on all 14 days, including a Monday high of 79 micrograms per cubic meter.

On all those days, Bangkok consistently ranked among the world’s top 10 most polluted cities, registering an “Unhealthy” Air Quality Index (AQI) value above 151 on at least half of them, in some cases entering the 201 threshold of “Very Unhealthy.”

To tackle these problems, Aswin said he had ordered 68 health centers and 50 district offices to provide masks for the general public and encourage that they be worn while performing outdoor activities.

Outdoor activities are what monitoring agencies least recommend when air pollution levels exceed 151 on the AQI, with Air Visual insisting people are likely to experience an “increased likelihood of adverse effects and aggravation to the heart and lungs among general public.”

Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha proceeded to blame the public for the situation following a Tuesday cabinet meeting in Narathiwat province.

“The public is responsible and a culprit in the PM2.5 problem,” Prayuth told the media, but added that he was willing to take measures to attempt to tackle the matter. “The government will consider all directives and actions, such as banning private vehicles and encourage people to use only public transportation.” EFE-EPA


Smog-ridden Mexico City suspends school classes due to pollution

Robie de Guzman   •   May 17, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

Mexico’s government ordered schools in and around Mexico City to be closed on Thursday (May 16) in an extraordinary step taken due to elevated levels of pollution in the smog-wreathed capital.

The education ministry said in a statement on Wednesday (May 15) that the measure applies to public and private schools in the Mexico City metropolitan area, which is home to well over 20 million people. It recommended that children avoid exercise, remain indoors and avoid using contact lenses.

Two of the city’s principal seats of higher learning, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the National Polytechnic Institute, also said they would suspend classes in the metropolitan area on Thursday due to the pollution.

On Tuesday (May 14) the city’s authorities declared an environmental emergency. They have come under pressure to act due to reduced visibility caused by smoke and ash in the air during an extended dry spell.

“The increase in the temperature will worsen air pollution in cities because the chemical that pollution carries is dependent on the temperature. A prediction that is materialising is that there are an increasing numbers of forest fires because there is more drought, higher temperatures,” said the Environmental Consultant for the Mexico City Government.

“We have already seen this in the United States in California. We’ve had a very clear example of this in recent years,” it added.

Smoke from nearby wildfires has pushed pollution to levels deemed potentially harmful to human health.

“There are winds over Mexico City that are bringing with them particles that are setting off fires in different areas of the metropolitan area of the Mexico City valley area. Also, we’ve been informed that hopefully, this changes by the end of the week,” said Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum.

“I have a one-and-a-half year old baby and I am looking to protect myself from getting sick, so as not to have the medical expenses and from feeling bad. It (mouth mask) is more preventative and for my baby,” said Pamela Barajas, a local resident.

“As citizens there are issues that we don’t know about, for example, with the particles (in the air) that are affecting breathing. We are affected because we suddenly feel that our eyes and nasal passages are irritated so in this respect it is alarming. And for children, there was a child that got a haemorrhage (from the pollution). So, I want to think that this (school closure) is because of the pollution and heatwave, combined with the heatwave it (pollution) is a more serious problem,” said Natividad Malpica, a local resident.

The Federal Environment Department said Wednesday that 3,800 firefighters are combating an average of about 100 fires a day in brush, scrub, agricultural and forest land throughout the country. Fire risk is highest in the spring for much of Mexico because the summer rainy season has not yet started. (REUTERS)


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