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Tue Sep 16 17:26:41 SAST 2014

Beijing shuts factories, removes cars, but pollution stays high

Reuters | 29 January, 2013 10:45
A woman stands on an overhead bridge on a typically hazy day in Beijing's central business district.
Image by: JASON LEE/REUTERS

Beijing temporarily shut down 103 heavily polluting factories and took 30 percent of government vehicles off roads to combat dangerously high air pollution, state media reported on Tuesday, but the capital's air remained hazardous despite the measures.

Air quality in Beijing has mostly stayed above "very unhealthy" and "hazardous" levels for about two weeks. On Tuesday, it hit 517 on an index maintained by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, which described the pollution as "Beyond Index".

Pollution in Beijing regularly exceed 500 on an index that measures particulate matter in the air with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers. Above 300 is considered hazardous, while the World Health Organisation recommends a daily level of no more than 20.

Earlier this month pollution hit a record, 30-45 times above recommended safety levels, blanketing the city in a thick, noxious cloud that grounded flights and forced people indoors.

Beijing's pollution problem has caused widespread public outrage, alarming the ruling Communist Party, which has failed to rein in pollution despite repeated pledges to get tough.

State news agency Xinhua said the Beijing municipal government held an urgent meeting on Tuesday "for the emergency work of controlling the heavy air pollution".

"All counties, departments, businesses and institutions should take the lead in suspending the service of 30 percent of official vehicles," Xinhua said. Beijing would also shut down 103 heavily polluting businesses.

But the emergency measures only last until Thursday.

The government has already announced that it would take 180,000 old vehicles off the roads in Beijing this year and control the "excessive" growth of new car sales in the city.

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Tue Sep 16 17:26:41 SAST 2014 ::