Now that Beijing is publishing PM 2.5 pollution readings from more than 30 locations, "it's apparent the capital needs to cooperate with neighboring regions if it is to tackle its pollution problem," an official from the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau told the Global Times Sunday.
"PM 2.5 pollution in Beijing, Hebei Province and Tianjin Municipality is each affected by the other. Beijing is doing its best at this current stage and there are still many obstacles to overcome," said the official who declined to be named, adding that Beijing cannot tackle the problem alone.
The municipality has set up 35 air quality monitoring stations that provide hourly PM 2.5 readings, which measure pollutants as small as 2.5 micrograms and are considered serious health hazards.
The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center's website provides a map showing readings from the monitoring stations over the last 24 hours. An analysis of the data shows the city experiences peak readings often at night.
The quality of air in the suburbs is generally only slightly better than the city center, with some outlying regions producing some of the highest readings on Saturday and Sunday.
Graphs of PM 2.5 are shaped like an "N" with the daily peak occurring around midnight. Experts suggest this is because more heavy trucks and construction sites operate during the night.
Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a non-governmental organization, told the Global Times nearly a quarter of the PM 2.5 pollution in Beijing comes from neighboring regions, while Beijing's pollution also flows to Tianjin and Hebei. "Pollution in these three regions is intertwined, and all of them have to be part of the solution," said Ma.
In September, new stations were set up in the city's suburban areas in an attempt to monitor migrating pollutants from neighboring regions.
Ma said mining the data for causes is an "encouraging start," to understand how air quality might be improved."
"This is especially helpful in recognizing trends," Ma added.
The official from the bureau would not disclose if any trends have been revealed since the suburban monitoring stations were established.
In February, Beijing announced objectives to cut PM 2.5 pollutants by 2020 to 70 percent of the 2010 average, and to cut it to below nationals standards by 2030.
National standards specify that air quality is "fine" when readings are below 75 micrograms per cubic meter, and "excellent" when below 35.